A Conversation with David Head, Ph.D.

This fall semester David Head, Ph.D., will present his second lecture at OLLI Jupiter titled “George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy: How the General Rescued the American Revolution in the War’s Waning Days,” on Monday, November 25 at 12:00 p.m.  Professor Head teaches history at the University of Central Florida and is the author of “Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic” (University of Georgia Press, 2015) and the editor of “Encyclopedia of the Atlantic World” (ABC-CLIO, 2017) and “The Golden Age of Piracy: The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Popularity of Pirates” (Georgia, 2018). His new book about George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy and the end of the American Revolution, will be available during his lecture.  We look forward to Professor Head’s upcoming lecture and are excited to have him back with us.

Dr. David Head

What inspires you about your current research?

I love having the opportunity to get to know the people I study. Some of them are already well-known, such as George Washington. Others deserve to be better known, such as Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance, a government position before the Constitution that was analogous to treasury secretary and president combined. Still others are justifiably obscure, but it’s no less meaningful to root around in their papers, getting to know them. For example, my new book talks about a young lieutenant named Benjamin Gilbert of Massachusetts. He kept a diary and included entries on his…let’s say, his not entirely wholesome ways of alleviating boredom in camp. He didn’t change the outcome of the war. But it’s such a privilege to learn about someone’s life from the distance of so many years. I love it!


What do you think students will enjoy most about your lecture on George Washington?

Students will be amazed how close the Revolution came to collapsing even after the Americans won the war’s last real battle with a decisive victory at Yorktown in October 1781. The peace treaty wasn’t finalized for another two years, and in the meantime, fiscal problems crushed the new nation while suspicions between soldiers and civilians burst into the open. The American Revolution was a glorious victory for the glorious cause–in the long run. But at the moment, the war’s ending was far from happily ever after. Now, that sounds a bit dark, so cheer up: I’ll also have jokes about George Washington, who was hilarious when he was frustrated, which he often was when dealing with troublesome officers, slow-moving politicians, and soldiers who refused to behave according to his lofty expectations.


What attracted you to teach for OLLI at FAU?

I love sharing my research with people outside a formal university setting. UCF is an enormous school, and I teach a lot of students. Sometimes, the routine of lecturing and grading wears on me, so I find it rejuvenating to talk to people with a genuine passion for history. Lifelong learners are the best! They never ask if something will be on the test or complain about grades.


Tell us something about yourself that others may be surprised to know about you.

I really enjoy the movie The Little Mermaid. My kids have been watching it a lot this summer, sometimes twice a day, and although at first it seemed a bit much, I love putting it on for them. My daughters, ages two and four, wear their Ariel costumes. It’s so cute! My favorite character is King Triton. I’ve started developing elaborate theories about the under-the-sea-world’s political system. Like: Ariel has six sisters and none of them are married, but the king doesn’t seem concerned. Does rule pass to daughters and not just sons? These are the things you start to wonder on the twentieth viewing.


Please go to https://www.fau.edu/osherjupiter/ to register.  A book signing of Dr. Head’s new book, “George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy,” will follow the lecture.

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