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Profile profile for GrinspanJ

Ph.D.   University of Virginia, History, 2013
M.A.    University of Virginia, History, 2008
B.A.     Sarah Lawrence College, 2006

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Research Specialties: 

I study how politics and popular culture grew up together in America. In the 1800s, American political campaigns blended government and entertainment, youth culture and saloon culture, crime and comedy and so much else. The result was a mixing of the personal and the political, creating a bold experiment in self-government and thrilling human stories.

My first book, The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century (University of North Carolina, 2016), uncovered the forgotten era when young men and women were the most engaged demographic in American politics. Millions of children, youths, and young adults forced their way into public life, while their democracy forced its way into their personal lives.

My new book, The Age of Acrimony: How Americans Fought to Fix Their Democracy, 1865 – 1915 traces Americans’ struggle with their fascinating, frustrating political system in the decades after the Civil War. American democracy was never louder, closer, or more culturally central, drawing the highest voter turnouts in history and recruiting millions to tribal partisanship. Many joined in vibrant public campaigns, while others argued that self-government itself had failed. At the century’s end, reformers tamed the era’s wild politics, restraining their savage system by trading participation for civility.

To tell this story, The Age of Acrimony traces a fascinating father-daughter dynasty: the radical congressman William “Pig Iron” Kelley and Florence, a fiery intellectual who defied him and became a leader of her own Progressive movement. Through Will and Florie’s personal struggles – and friendships and feuds with lively characters – The Age of Acrimony traces a narrative of American democracy in crisis and its capacity for reform. The Age of Acrimony will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing in March 2021.

I always appreciate feedback, please feel to contact me.


The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
"Virgins, Booze, and American Elections," New York Times, April 8, 2016.
"When Anger Trumped Progress" New York Times, January 16, 2016
"How Generational Divisions Have Driven Down Voter Turnout in the United States," The Atlantic, July 30, 2016.
"America's 'Violent Little Partisans,'" The Atlantic, May 8, 2016.
"A Birthday Like None Other: Turning Twenty-One in the Age of Popular Politics" Age in America: The Colonial Era to the Present, Ed. Corinne Field (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 86-102.
"D.I.Y Education Before YouTube" New York Times, July 11, 2015
"Was Abolitionism a Failure?" New York Times, January 30, 2015.
"Don't Throw the Bums Out" New York Times, September 12, 2014
"How Coffee Fueled the Civil War," New York Times, July 9, 2014
"The Wild Children of Yesteryear" New York Times, May 31, 2014
"Anxious Youth, Then and Now" New York Times, December 31, 2013
"When the Civil War Came to New York," New York Times, July 13, 2013
"Riling Up the 'Shrewd, Wild Boys'" New York Times, August 9, 2012
"The Stephen Colbert of the Civil War" New York Times, June 11, 2012
"Laugh During Wartime" New York Times, January 9, 2012
“Sorrowfully Amusing: The Popular Comedy of the Civil War,” Journal of the Civil War Era, (September, 2011), 313-338.
"'Young Men for War': The Wide Awakes and Lincoln's 1860 Presidential Campaign" Journal of American History, 96 (Sept. 2009), 357–78.