AHA Member Spotlight: Michael Boden
Michael Boden is an associate professor of history at Dutchess Community College. He lives in Poughkeepsie, New York, and has been a member since 2010.
Alma maters: BS, United States Military Academy, 1988; MA, Vanderbilt University, 1997; MMAS, US Army Command and General Staff College, 2001; PhD, Vanderbilt University, 2010
Fields of interest: modern Germany, US military, local military (Dutchess County in the Civil War and World War I)
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
After graduating from West Point in 1988, I served as an armored cavalryman in the US Army for 23 years, retiring in 2011 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. While in service, I was selected to serve as a rotating faculty member in the Department of History at West Point from 1997 to 2000. After that experience, I decided that after I left the service, I wanted to continue to serve in education. I started at Dutchess Community College as an associate dean of academic affairs in 2011 and was able to move to a faculty position in 2015.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
The area is rich with history. Our county has a robust variety of historical associations, and I currently serve on the board of directors for the Dutchess County Historical Society. Beyond the FDR Library at Hyde Park, there are numerous other sites of interest that draw people from across the country (e.g., my wife works as a docent at Locust Grove, the former home of Samuel Morse, and yesterday welcomed a couple from California on her tour).
What projects are you currently working on?
There are two projects that I am currently working on. First, I am continuing a series on Dutchess County regiments and soldiers in the Civil War, tracing the steps of units and individuals with strong Dutchess County ties (the 150th, 128th, and 159th New York being the primary units). Second, we recently discovered a 183-page diary of a county soldier who fought in the Meuse-Argonne in the First World War. I am transcribing that diary and hope to turn his story into a scholarly historical work.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
Yes, a great deal. I have become much more “European centric” as opposed to American, although I am not sure I can point to a specific reason. After my final deployment in the military (to Mosul, Iraq) in 2007, I started to study the Middle East in greater detail.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
Well, I cannot say I “discovered” it, but in a box at the county historical society are the World War I census forms (local) for service members from the town of Hyde Park, and in that box of about 350 forms, between those filled out by army privates and naval petty officers, was the form filled out by the assistant secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt! Pretty cool to see it written out in his own hand.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
One of my mentors was the late Denny Showalter. He had the rare gift of being able to write works that seemed effortless and sucked you into a scholarly story better than just about anybody. It is hard to pick just one of his books, but Railroads and Rifles is the standard that I would like to hit for my first book-length narrative.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
History teaches you how people solved problems in the past (at so many different levels, in so many different contexts). And history teaches you how to solve those questions through critical reasoning, without any formulaic crutch that lets one simply punch in data to reach a solution.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
The greatest value to me has been to remain tied into themes, debates, and topics that might not otherwise be clear or visible.
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, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
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