Patrick Spero

Patrick Spero
Assistant Professor of History and Leadership Studies
Schapiro Hall Rm 227

On Leave Fall 2015 – Spring 2016



B.A. James Madison University (2000)
M.A. University of Pennsylvania (2004)
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania (2009)


Note: courses in gray are not offered this academic year.

LEAD 157 / AMST 157 / HIST 157

From Powhatan to Lincoln: Discovering Leadership in a New World

HIST 353

Before Independence: British North America, 1607-1763

HIST 355 / LEAD 255

Perspectives on the American Revolution

HIST 359 / LEAD 259

The Politics of Presidential Leadership, 1776-1860

HIST 367

Frontiers in Early American History, 1607-1846

HIST 453 / LEAD 453

Researching Early America


Patrick Spero is a specialist in early American history, with a particular focus on political history. He received his Ph.D. in 2009 from the University of Pennsylvania for his dissertation “Creating Pennsylvania: The Politics of the Frontier and the State, 1682-1800.” He has published essays and reviews on early American print culture, revolutionary politics, frontier life, and education. Prior to his arrival at Williams College in 2011, Spero was the Pew Post-Doctoral Fellow in Early American History at the American Philosophical Society. He has received numerous long-term and short-term fellowships to support his research, including the Society of Cincinnati Fellowship at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. At Williams, Spero will be teaching courses in early American history and leadership studies.

Dr. Spero has also been an active public historian. He served as the Historian at the David Library of the American Revolution, the only research center dedicated to the study of the American Revolution, and currently sits on its Board of Trustees. Previously, he worked as Producer, Education Director, and Researcher for Now Debate This!, a multimedia educational project that explored the lives and legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Spero’s work in public history has always tried to use new technologies to make history more accessible and relevant for students, teachers, and the public.

Selected Publications

Essays and Articles:

“The Other Theater: The War for American Independence beyond the Colonies,” History Now, edited by Carole Berkin (Gilder-Lehrman Institute, Winter 2013)

“The Conojocular War: The Politics of Colonial Competition, 1732-1737,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Fall, 2012)

“The William Smith House: Mobilizing the Frontier in the 18th and 21st Centuries,” Pennsylvania History (Winter, 2012)

“Defiance in the Face of Devastation: The Introduction of Smallpox and the Transformation of Indigenous Societies” in  World History: The Modern Era, ABC-CLIO, 2012

“The Americanization of Pennsylvania Almanacs,” in Pennsylvania’s Revolution, William Pencak, ed. (Penn State Press, 2010)

“The Revolution in Popular Publications: The Almanac and New England Primer, 1750-1800,” in Early American Studies (Winter 2009 in special edition entitled The Atlantic World of Print in the Age of Franklin, Rosalind Remer and James Green, special editors.)

“Recreating James Smith at the Pennsylvania State Archives,” Pennsylvania History (Autumn, 2009)

Education in the 50 States: A Deskbook of the History of State Constitutions and Laws About Education (Institute for Educational Equity and Opportunity, 2008), co-contributor

“Lord Dunmore’s Victory: Turning Pennsylvania into Virginia,” in Proceedings and Selected Papers of the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era (2008)

The Encyclopedia of United States Indian Policy and Law (Congressional Quarterly Press, 2008), entry on Sir William Johnson

Encyclopedia of the New American Nation (2006, Charles Scribner’s Sons), entries on almanacs and holidays

Digital Publications:

“The Politics of the Presidency,” fourteen-part series on American politics from Washington to Lincoln on

A Guide to Early American Collections at the American Philosophical Society, July 2011.

A survey of over 800 collections held at the American Philosophical Society

Review Essays:

Review of Benjamin Irvin, Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty (Oxford, 2011) and Barbara Clark Smith, The Freedom’s We Lost (The New Press, 2011) in Reviews in American History (March 2013)

Review essay of Kevin Kenny, Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment (Oxford, 2009) and David Preston, The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783 (Nebraska, 2009) in Reviews in American History (March, 2011)

“Matters of Perspective: Interpreting the Revolutionary Frontier,” Review Essay of Terry Bouton, Taming Democracy: “The People,” The Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution, Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier, and Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors:  How Indian War Shaped America in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, July 2008


Research Interests

Early American and American political history

Theses Advised

Jacob Addelson, ’14 “Whereas a controversy has long subsisted”:  The Massachusetts – New York Border Dispute, 1609-1787

Program Connections at Williams

Leadership Studies Program


Current Committees

Leadership Studies Program