Contributor Close Up: Louis Arthur Norton


June 21, 2021
by Editors Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

What inspired you to start researching and writing about the Revolution?

What inspired me to start researching and writing about the revolution was my retirement from being an academic clinician/scientist. With more time on my hands I decided to revert to my liberal arts education and pursue a graduate degree in history. As I was born, raised and educated in two historic New England institutions, Revolutionary War events seemed very real to me during my graduate studies.

What inspired you to start researching and writing about the Revolution?

One book that particularly inspired me about the Revolutionary War was the memoir of Joshua Barney written by his wife shortly after the naval captain passed away. I purchased an almost pristine copy of this 1832 book an antique shop. Having read it, I was inspired to update and make more accessible his extraordinary life story as one of the heroes of both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

What are your go-to research resources?

My research sources obviously vary depending upon the focus of the subject. During my graduate studies I had the good fortune of being the Paul Revere Memorial Fellow at the Massachusetts historical society, latter I became involved in the Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport Museum and became a Fellow there. Therefore, these were two excellent resources for my maritime history interests. Finally, I often visit the historical societies of the towns where the subjects of my stories took place and gather as much background information as I can.

Which of your own JAR articles is your favorite or most rewarding? Why?

My favorite submitted articles that were published in the JAR or perhaps two: The revolutionary war origin of the whistleblower law; the second about the print media: newspapers of the revolutionary war. These two topics are still currently in the news and their Revolutionary War origins make the case that political concerns do not change too much over time.

What new research/writing projects are you currently working on?

Projects that I am currently working on vary widely. Most of my focus has been in maritime history, therefore the vast majority of my writings have to do with maritime historical events. I have the privilege of being a book reviewer for a number of maritime history journals that have broadened my exposure to many historical persons and actions.

What books about the American Revolution do you most often recommend?

It is difficult to identify my favorite books concerning the American Revolution, but these three are near or at the top of my list: George Daughan’s Revolution on the Hudson, Kevin Phillips’s 1775: A Good Year for Revolution, and Simon Shama’s Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution.

What other hobbies/interests do you enjoy?

Regarding my hobbies and interests, I travel a great deal and I am a serious amateur photographer. I enjoy playing tennis, cycling and collecting plus writing focused on various genres, non-fiction, fiction and even children’s literature. Also, as retired academic I still enjoy following the extensive evolution of my former challenging profession. I have sung in all sorts of musical groups since my college days; because of the pandemic, this source of pleasure has been on hold, but about to resume.

Why is Journal of the American Revolution important to you?

Why is JAR important to me? The journal articles often focus upon every day details that do not make it into the articles that appear in history books. As the cliché says, the devil is in the details, and JAR tends to bring many of these details to light.

Is there an article, or subject area, that you would like to see appear in JAR?

Since my focus as a historian has largely been directed toward maritime events, I would like to see more Revolutionary War maritime-related topics. The Continental Navy, various state navies and the many privateer ventures did not substantially turn the outcome of the war, but few stories about them have appeared in the journal.


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