Dr. Smith holding a wood cane and his latest book

My exploration of history is driven by what I see as my responsibility to inform my students and the public at large about what went right and what went wrong in the past so that we can make better decisions in the future.

John Howard Smith, Ph.D.
Professor of History

  • Faculty
Ferguson Social Sciences 117
Related Department
Asheville, N.C.

Dr. John Howard Smith cannot remember a time before he loved history. He shares a birthday with Thomas Jefferson and a name with the founder of Virginia; both of which made it clear that he was destined to become an early Americanist. His fascination with religion and religious culture provided a natural research focus.

Now at A&M-Commerce, Dr. Smith continues to pursue his passions as a professor and historian. In the classroom, he reveals the lessons of history to his students. As a historian and author, he has set out to thoroughly deconstruct the influence of religious apocalypticism on American politics and culture.

A Conversation with Dr. Smith

What has been your favorite course to teach?

Probably my favorite course to teach is the Salem Witch Trials because we delve deeper into primary source documents in the trial records than is possible in almost any other course. So much of what happened in eastern Massachusetts in the early 1690s is identical to what continues to happen in contemporary America. Plus, it's just a lot of fun to introduce students to the finer details about Puritan New England that leads to the dispelling of certain myths about the foundations of American society.

Tell us about a project you are working on or have completed.

I just published my latest book, A Dream of the Judgment Day: American Millennialism and Apocalypticism, 1620-1890 with Oxford University Press, and I've begun work on the follow-up, Some Revelation at Hand: American Millennialism and Apocalypticism, 1890-2020, which will complete my overview of popular belief in an end to the world in American history. It will highlight the degrees to which apocalypticism has permeated American culture and influenced our politics in particular.

What would you tell a student who is thinking about attending A&M-Commerce?

You're going to get the best education available in this region for a relatively low price, and you'll be taught by a faculty the vast majority of whom hold the highest-level degrees in their fields. There's a spirit of community here that you can't find at large universities, and the good faculty-to-student ratio means that you can get more individual attention.

Educational Background

Academic Positions

  • Professor of History, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2016-present
  • Associate Professor of History, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2009-2016
  • Assistant Professor of History, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2003-2009
  • Ad-Interim Instructor of History, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2002-2003
  • Adjunct Instructor of History, Guilford College, 2001-2002

Awards and Honors

  • Harry S. Wade Senior Faculty Award
  • Paul W. Barras Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching

Research Interests

  • Early America
  • Early Modern Atlantic World
  • Religion in American History & Culture
  • American Indian History

Professional Organizations

Selected Publications

  • A Dream of the Judgment Day: American Millennialism and Apocalypticism, 1620-1890 (Oxford University Press, 2020)
  • The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725-1775 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015)
  • The Perfect Rule of the Christian Religion: A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century (SUNY Press, 2008)

Featured Courses

HIST 1301 The United States to 1877

HIST 342 Colonial North America

HIST 408 Plagues and Pandemics

HIST 535 Introduction to the History of Religion

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