Dr. William Leeman
My primary scholarly interests are the American Revolution and Early Republic, the Civil War, the American presidency, American military and naval history, Anglo-American relations and Rhode Island history. My research has focused on the interaction between American political and military institutions and the larger society and culture that they serve. My first book examined the national debate concerning the establishment of an academy to educate American naval officers, a debate that began during the American Revolution and continued until the founding of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1845. The book uses the naval academy issue as a way to study the controversial creation of a professional military officer corps in the early United States and the relationship of that officer corps to the civil government and society that it defended. My second book, which I co-edited with Professor John Hattendorf of the Naval War College, is a collection of scholarly essays by leading historians about Theodore Roosevelt and his lifelong relationship with the U.S. Navy. In addition, I have published journal articles on such topics as President John F. Kennedy’s leadership of the American space program at the start of the moon race with the Soviet Union, the cadet experience of the West Point Class of 1915, the Civil War interaction between American historian George Bancroft and President Abraham Lincoln, the public celebration of Spanish-American War naval hero George Dewey as a popular culture icon in turn-of-the-century America, and the stormy relationship between Gen. Nathanael Greene and members of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.
I encourage my students to view the study of history as an intellectual challenge that not only broadens their perspective, but also helps them to master important skills that will contribute to their future professional success. The reading and writing assignments in my courses require students to think critically, form ideas and clearly express those ideas. One of my goals as a teacher of history is to help my students become informed and engaged citizens who take their civic responsibilities seriously. Since the earliest days of the American republic, the founders emphasized the importance of education in a democratic nation, which requires the participation of citizens who make informed decisions on public issues and who make meaningful contributions to their society. In today's global community, the perspective on the present provided by contemplation of the past is even more important. An understanding of history helps students become productive members of society by providing them with the knowledge, perspective and skills they need to find solutions to problems and improve the lives of others.