History Hot Off the Presses

By Ashley Smith

Diane Barnes, professor of history and the editor of “Ohio History,” had her fifth book, “The American Story: Perspectives and Encounters from 1877,” published in February.

Barnes’ book is a United States history textbook, and is not her first foray into the field of academic publishing. She has assisted with four scholarly articles and authored four books prior to her most recent publication.

Barnes’ most recent book is geared toward a student audience, particularly those participating in nontraditional higher education programs.

“It is a digital textbook that will be used by distance learning courses in U.S. history. The book is focused on all aspects of U.S. history from Reconstruction to the present, but has special emphasis on social history and the experiences of average American citizens,” Barnes said.

While Barnes was requested by the publisher to write the book, she cited a variety of reasons for producing the text.

“I decided to do so for several reasons. First, I am just now beginning to transfer some of my ‘brick and mortar’ history courses into online classes and wanted to rethink the way I conceptualize and teach history,” she said. “I also found it an excellent chance to rethink the larger overall narrative of American history. It was a great way to refresh and update myself on the evolving interpretations of history.”

The new book will be used by Bridgepoint, an online higher education provider, in their upcoming coursework. While the organization initially provided Barnes with a book to work from, Barnes made significant changes to the materials both in content and presentation.

“I started with an existing edition that Bridgepoint was using for its online classes at Ashford University, and basically deconstructed it to create a whole new text. For example, they were using a text with a five chapter format — my book includes fifteen chapters divided more conventionally to encompass such events as World War I, the Great Depression and so forth,” she said.

Contextualizing history and providing an understandable and coherent narrative were primary motivators for Barnes, who hopes her text will help students better connect to United States history.

“Since it’s a textbook, my first hope is that students will find it readable,” Barnes said. “I also hope that those reading it will find something relevant to their own lives in the narrative of American history. Too many times I hear students complain that history is boring or not relevant. My hope is that this text will change their minds.”