Assistant Professor of History Dr. John Macaulay presented “Urban Unitarians, Rural Trinitarians: Town Liberals in a Planter Culture” last month at an international interdisciplinary conference at the University of Southhampton in the United Kingdom.
The conference,“Uneasy Neighbours: Rural-Urban Relationships in the Nineteenth Century,” featured presenters from the Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Spain, and throughout the United Kingdom.
A member of the faculty since 2008 and a member of Erskine’s Class of 1986, Macaulay is the author of Unitarianism in the Antebellum South: The Other Invisible Institution, published by The University of Alabama Press in 2001.
At the time his book was published, he was an independent scholar and “didn’t have the academic platform to adequately promote it,” he said. “Recently, however, the book has enjoyed
renewed interest both in and outside of historical circles, and both at home and abroad.”
Macaulay has continued his scholarly work while teaching at the school where he completed a history major.
“I’ve elevated several of the secondary and tertiary arguments from that work and expounded and developed them. Some of these will be published as either journal articles or book chapters.”
The paper he recently presented “focused on the urban character of Unitarianism, its often uneasy relationship to orthodoxy, and the relationship of Unitarians to other Southerners,” Macaulay said.
Last October, he presented “Tree Stump or ‘Treason’? Unitarians Debate the Role of the Pulpit in the Age of Reform” at the New England Historical Association Meeting, and that paper will be published by the Journal of Church and State early in 2014.
In April, he plans to be part of an international panel on Religion and Cultural Appropriation at the European Social Studies History Conference in Vienna, Austria, presenting a paper with the same title as his book.
“The conference rejected over 1,700 entries, so I am fortunate that they accepted mine,” he said.
For Macaulay, though, it’s not all about his own scholarship or any accolades he might receive.
For example, he recalls with pleasure a trip he took last spring with seniors Eric Goodwin, Megan Kunkle, and Nick Lewis, visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. National Park in Atlanta and attending a regional meeting of the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta.
“All three gave fantastic presentations, and two took home the top prizes for the meeting,” he said.
“Seeing the smiles on their faces and the broader recognition of their hard work was truly a special moment for me.”
This semester he is teaching World Civilizations (to 1500), United States History (to 1877), Latin America in Modern Times, and, with Dr. Sandra Chaney and Dr. David Grier, the senior seminar for history majors.
Macaulay has enjoyed being back at his alma mater.
“While some things have changed over the years, Erskine students remain friendly and respectful,” he said. “I’ve had the privilege of working with some very talented individuals while I’ve been here, and I’ve enjoyed the interaction with students both in and out of the classroom.“
Even in the midst of his daily focus on his current students, teaching, and research, there is an element of nostalgia.
“I’ve had several deja-vu moments, quick flashbacks of my time here as a student: a walk past Philo Hall, doing research in the library (the library still smells the same), events in Lesesne, all bring back memories of the teenager I used to be.”
Remembering his own experiences as an Erskine student and the ways in which he was drawn toward serious scholarship, he is eager to serve as a mentor to his students.
“Pushing students to be more engaged and to be more active learners goes hand in hand with pushing myself to be a better teacher,” Macaulay said.
After completing a major in history at Erskine College, John Macaulay studied at Duke University, where he earned a master’s degree, and at the University of South Carolina, where he was awarded the Ph.D.