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Lendol Calder

Discipline Advisor

Dr. Lendol Calder is a historian of American consumerism teaching at Augustana College, Rock Island, IL. 

Educated at the University of Texas, Austin (B.A., 1980) and the University of Chicago (Ph.D., 1993), Calder is the first historian to examine in depth how it became possible for people to afford to participate in consumer society. His book Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History of Consumer Credit (Princeton, 1999) helped renew the contemporary interest among historians in the history of capitalism and inspired other scholars to give attention to how people manage money. Widely praised in scholarly journals and the popular press,  Financing the American Dream was hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “deliciously seditious” because it showed that massive indebtedness is nothing new in the American way of life. Calder argues that the real meaning of the American debt wish historically had less to do with hedonism (“shop ‘til you drop”) than with a new kind of discipline he calls “the financial arts” (“I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.”) Public interest in the topics Calder writes about—debt, credit, thrift, and the history of money management—have made him a frequent speaker and commentator on programs such as NPR’s Morning Edition and in publications such as Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. His essay on the history of household financial arts can be found in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption (2012).

Calder is also an award winning teacher. In 1999, he was invited to become one of a select group of outstanding teachers forming the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL).  Charged with investigating and documenting significant issues and challenges in the teaching of their fields, Carnegie Scholars have worked to create and promote a new field of innovative scholarship known as the scholarship of teaching and learning.  Calder’s research studies the problem of how to teach historical thinking to novice level undergraduates.  His pathbreaking account of a “signature pedagogy” for history was published in the Journal of American History (“Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey,” JAH 92, March 2006). He is currently working on a field guide for teachers who want to use his “uncoverage” methods and a companion course text for students to be used in introductory courses taught on his model.

Since becoming a Carnegie Scholar, Calder has spoke or led workshops for teachers on many dozens of campuses.  Since 2007, he has served the Organization of American Historians as an OAH Distinguished Lecturer. In 2010, in appreciation for his efforts to expand the horizons of what is deemed possible for undergraduate teaching, Calder was honored as the CASE/Carnegie  Illinois Professor of the Year.

 You can reach him at calder@jngi.org.