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 in 1999 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 Read Hall.
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.
In addition to survey and upper-level courses on early and 19th-century American history, Pasley's teaching interests include Native American, Missouri history, and the history of popular political culture.
- History 1100. American History to 1865
- History 2420. Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracies in U.S. History and Culture (on hiatus)
- History 2440. History of Missouri
- History 4000/7000. The Age of Jefferson
- History 4004. The Superhero in American Culture from Washington to Wolverine
- History 4070/7070. Indians and Europeans in Early America
- History 8021. Graduate Readings on the Early American Republic
The First Presidential Contest: The Election of 1796 and the Beginnings of American Democracy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013. Paperback edition, 2016. Winner of the 2014 Missouri Conference on History book prize. Finalist for the 2014 George Washington Book Prize.
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.
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 -- http://www.common-place.org/vol-09/no-01/. 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 -- http://www.common-place.org/pasley/?cat=135 .
“ ‘Hamilton’ as Founders Chic: A Neo-Federalist, Antislavery, Usable Past?” (with David Waldstreicher). In Hip Hop History: Historians on “Hamilton”, ed. Renee Romano and Claire Potter. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, forthcoming.
“Big Trouble in Little Tammany: The Pendergast Machine and the Liberal Transformation of the Democratic Party.” In Wide Open Town: Kansas City Between the Wars, ed. Diane Mutti Burke, John Herron, and Jason Roe. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, forthcoming.
“The Devolution of 1800: Jefferson's Election and the Birth of American Government.” In America at the Ballot Box: Elections and American Political History, ed. Gareth Davies and Julian Zelizer, 13-35, 266-274. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
“Whiskey Chaser: Democracy and Violence in the Debate over the Democratic-Republican Societies and Whiskey Rebellion.” Between Sovereignty and Anarchy: The Politics of Violence in the American Revolutionary Era, ed. Patrick Griffin, Robert G. Ingram, Peter S. Onuf, and Brian Schoen, 187-215. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015.
“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-- http://www.common-place.org/vol-09/no-01/pasley/.
“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.
- “The Role of the Press and Media in Presidential Elections” (2003/2010)
- “Thomas Paine and the U.S. Election of 1796: In which it is discovered that George Washington was more popular than Jesus” (2008)
- “Popular Constitutionalism in Philadelphia: How Freedom of the Press Was Won” (2008)
- Articles on Conspiracy Theory in Early American History, written for Peter Knight, ed., Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia (2003)
- “You Can’t Pin A Good Slayer Down: The Politics, If Any, of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel“ (2003)
- “Showing the Scars: Presidential Illness and the Press over the Centuries” (2001)
- “Conspiracy Theory and American Exceptionalism from the Revolution to Roswell” (2000)
- “Matthew Livingston Davis’s Notes From The Political Underground: The Conflict of Political Values in the Early American Republic” (1996/2000)