Michael Trotti

Professor, History


Brief Background

cover of book End of Public Execution

I am a United States historian particularly interested in social and cultural issues in our past. This means that I explore a range of issues in the American past -- political, economic, and social -- but that I am particularly interested in pursuing the social implications of change: how developments in American history affected different people (different in class, gender, race, ethnicity) differently. 

In addition to surveys and a two-semester upper-level sequence in American 20th-century history, I offer courses in American social and cultural history: ethnicity, popular culture, and crime.

I have a book in press (UNC Press, forthcoming in December 2022) called: The End of Public Execution: Race, Religion, and Punishment in the South.   An early take on a portion of this material, "The Scaffold's Revival: Race and Public Execution in the South" appeared in the Journal of Social History (September 2011).  Another article, more of a tangent to this project, "What Counts: Trends in Racial Violence in the Postbellum South" appeared in The Journal of American History (September 2013).  

My first book -- The Body in the Reservoir: Murder and Sensationalism in the South --  was a study of sensationalism in Southern culture from the antebellum period into the twentieth century. It began as my dissertation for my PhD. I study this subject by investigating a series of sensational murder cases in Richmond, Virginia, and how these cases were sensationalized differently over time: in images, in capital punishment, and in the narratives created to explain the violence in the community.  The sensationalism in the white community was also quite distinct from that in the black community -- another side of the subject I pursue in the book.

II received my Masters and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999. Go Heels!

My area of study at UNC was United States social and cultural history from 1850 to the present. Both my dissertation and Master's thesis (a study of cultural life at the turn of the 20th century, focusing upon the advent of the movies and amusement parks) centered around the social and cultural history of my home town, Richmond, Virginia.

I began my college career at Hampshire College and finished it -- after several twists and turns including an apprenticeship as a book binder -- at Virginia Commonwealth University, where I majored in History and minored in English.

For more, see my:

file-outline Brief Curriculum Vita - trotticvbrief2022.pdf (106.85 KB)