University of Missouri


Jeffrey L. Pasley

Ph.D., Harvard University
area: early U.S. history
office: 102 Read Hall
phone: 573-882-4385, 529-3163 (preferred)

A native of Topeka, Kansas and a graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota, Prof. Pasley returned to the Midwest to join the MU History Department in1999 after several years at Florida State University in Tallahassee. While he never lived in Missouri until taking the job in Columbia, Pasley has deep family roots in mid-Missouri and did the first real historical research of his life (as a teenager) at the State Historical Society of Missouri, across the street from his present office.  

Pasley’s academic interests were shaped by his post-college experiences working in Washington, D.C., where he was a reporter-researcher for The New Republic and then a junior speechwriter for Al Gore's failed 1988 presidential campaign. Finding past American politics more fulfilling that the present-day variety, Pasley entered the History of American Civilization program at Harvard in 1988, studying early American history with Bernard Bailyn and writing a dissertation on the rise of professional politicians. Pasley's research (encompassing several different projects) focuses on American political culture between the American Revolution and the Civil War, with particular emphasis on the practical aspects and middle levels of political life. This interest has led him to such misunderstood or little-studied topics as the histories of the partisan press, lobbying, and campaigning.

Pasley’s latest book takes on the somewhat formidable task of applying this “middle-out” approach to presidential politics, in the form of the first contested election, in 1796, between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Neither candidate actually participated in the campaign, but both ended up “winning,” so The First Presidential Contest is a most unusual “making of the president” book.


The First Presidential Contest: The Election of 1796 and the Beginnings of American Democracy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013.

Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic (edited, with David Waldstreicher and Andrew W. Robertson). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

“The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001. Paperback edition, 2003. Winner of the History Division Book Prize, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, 2002.

Electronic Book

Beyond the Valley of the Founders: Democracy in Early America, and After (edited, with Edward G. Gray).The Common-Place Politics Issue 2008. Common-Place 9 (Oct. 2008), issue 1, URL -- Accompanied by “Myths of the Lost Atlantis: A blog series dedicated to Phil Lampi” (posts by guests and myself on scholarly and popular misconceptions about early American politics), URL -- .

Select Articles

“Reading the Republic: Newspapers and Early America.” Gilcrease: The Journal of the Gilcrease Museum 18 (Fall/Winter 2011): 36-53.

“Thomas Greenleaf: Printers and the Struggle for Democratic Politics and Freedom of the Press.” In Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation, ed. Alfred Young, Gary Nash, and Ray Raphael, 357-375, 428-429. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. [Based on new research – NOT an outtake from Tyranny of Printers].

“Have Pen, Will Travel: The Times and Life of John Norvell, Newspaper Politician.” In An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, ed. Robert Gross and Mary Kelley, 190-198. History of the Book in America, vol. 2.  Published by the American Antiquarian Society and University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

“The National Gazette.” In A New Literary History of America, ed. Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, 117-122. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009.

"Midget on Horseback American Indians and the History of the American State." Common-Place 9 (Oct. 2008). URL--

“From Print-Shop to Congress and Back: Easton's Thomas J. Rogers and the Rise of Newspaper Politics.” In Backcountry Crucibles: The Lehigh Valley from Settlement to Steel, ed. Jean R. Soderlund and Catherine Parzynski, 257-283. Bethlehem, Pa: Lehigh University Press, 2008.

“Minnows, Spies, and Aristocrats: The Social Crisis of Congress in the Age of Martin Van Buren.” Journal of the Early Republic 27 (Winter 2007): 599-653.

“Politics and the Misadventures of Thomas Jefferson's Modern Reputation: A Review Essay.” Journal of Southern History 72 (2006): 1-38.

“The Cheese and the Words: Popular Political Culture and Participatory Democracy in the Age of Jefferson.” In Beyond the Founders (see above), ed. Pasley, Robertson, and Waldstreicher.

“Old Familiar Vampires: The Politics of the Buffyverse.” In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale, ed. James B. South, 254-67. Chicago: Open Court Press, 2003

“1800 as a Revolution in Political Culture: Newspapers, Celebrations, Voting, and Democratization in the Early Republic.” In The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic, ed. Peter S. Onuf, Jan E. Lewis, and James Horn, 121-152. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002.

“Private Access and Public Power: Gentility and Lobbying in the Early Congress.” In The House and the Senate in the 1790s: Petitioning, Lobbying, and Institutional Development, ed. Kenneth R. Bowling and Donald R. Kennon, 57-99. Athens: Ohio University Press for the United States Capitol Historical Society, 2002.


In addition to survey and upper-level courses on early and 19th-century American history, Pasley's teaching interests include Native American and Missouri history, in addition to the history of popular culture. His frequently-requested course “Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in American History and Culture” is on hiatus for now

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Professor Pasley
Jeff Pasley

book jacket
The First Presidential Contest

book jacket
The Tyranny of Printers

book jacket
Beyond the Founders