Publication Date

July 21, 2016

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily



AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Mark Andersen, CFA, is a senior director, global products strategy and analytics, at Cimpress (but surely someday will find himself teaching).  He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, and has been a member since 2015

Twitter handle: @MarkVAndersenAndersen_photo (1)
I do not tweet much, more relevant would be my blog:

Alma mater/s: SB (political science, physics), MIT, 1989; AM (political science), Harvard, 1991; MS (computer engineering), Case Western Reserve University, 1993; PhD (political science), Harvard, 1996

Fields of interest: civil-military, Europe, world wars, US Civil War (inception)

When did you first develop an interest in history?
Playing wargames as a child, I have always been interested in simulation. As I reached graduate school, I better appreciated these games represented a particular paradigm of historical interpretation (the omniscient and omnipotent leader). Now, as a professional, I appreciate many varieties of organizational dysfunction, and am interested particularly in counterproductive dynamics in historical events.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am interested in a few topics around the start of the US Civil War. Rather than retelling what did happen, I think understanding the options available and unintended consequences is quite interesting. If the Southerners had adopted tactics of today’s Republican party, could they have effectively made military action impossible?

Have your interests evolved since graduation?  If so, how?
Firstly, working in a corporate environment, I have appreciated how difficult operationalization and execution are, even when people have similar goals. As such, I am more interested in learning about these challenges, and also reading biography to better understand leadership.

Secondly, as someone with a lifelong interest in military history, I am increasingly shocked by the huge losses our society has sustained, both in warfare and genocide. I am interested in honoring those who are lost and may be forgotten. I also have been realizing how ingrained are our cultural assumptions about wars, for example ignorance of Russia’s role in starting World War II (and the Allies failure to take action upon violation of Polish sovereignty).

Finally, I have had many opportunities to travel to Europe, and this has facilitated my thinking about European history, and cast a new lens on European and American history.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I recommend David Herbert Donald’s biography of Lincoln as an amazing survey of many aspects of the Lincoln Presidency. Many significant questions arise, such as the role of the admission of states in the 1864 election, or whether Lincoln was lagging Congressional action in proposing the Emancipation Proclamation.

Today I am reading Philipp Blom’s Fracture about the interwar period, which is a nice summary of many trends and events in Europe and the United States.

What do you value most about the history profession?
History for me is a commitment to treating our forerunners with respect and dignity; not forgetting. It is also a tool to recognize that today is not so different from yesterday.

Why have you continued to be a member of the AHA?
To try to reach for more.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?
Gaming, sailing, and analytics (my day job).

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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