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Indiana University Bloomington

James Capshew


James CapshewJames H. Capshew received a B.A. (1979) in psychology from Indiana University, and an M.A. (1982) and Ph.D. (1986) in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania. An associate professor in HPS, he has adjunct appointments in the History Department, the American Studies Program, and the School of Education.

Research Interests:

  • History of American science and learning
  • Psychology in conceptual, social, and institutional context
  • History and culture of Indiana University
  • Biography of Herman B Wells

The protean field of psychology—discipline, institution, cultural form—provides inspiration and information for his historical work. Why scientific psychology emerged as an academic discipline in the 19th century in Europe, how the field was transformed in America into a multipurpose profession, what the future will hold as psychology provides an idiom for understanding and shaping the self and others—these are some of the questions that animate his research. Current projects include a global survey of psychology in the 20th century, and a study of neuropsychological pathography.

He served as Editor of History of Psychology, a research journal sponsored by the American Psychological Association, from 2005 to 2009.

A collateral area of research—the history of American higher education—presents a distinct line of historical inquiry. Themes and topics include: the rise of the American university system, the tension between academic discipline and institutional context, the campus as a cultural space, and the fate of the university in a time of global change. The main site of his investigations has been the history of Indiana University in social, intellectual, and environmental perspectives. In progress is a biography of noted IU educational leader Herman B Wells.

Recent Publications:

  • "Reflexivity Revisited: Changing Psychology's Frame of Reference," in M. G. Ash, ed., Psychology's Territories: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives from Different Disciplines. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006
  • [With M.H. Adamson, P.A. Buchanan, N. Murray, N. Wake] "Kinsey's Biographers: A Historiographical Reconnaissance." Journal of the History of Sexuality 12 (2003): 465–486.
  • [Edited with Philip C. Bantin] The Wells Archive: Exploring the World of Higher Education. Bloomington: Indiana University Libraries, 2000.
  • Psychologists on the March: Science, Practice, and Professional Identity in America, 1929–1969. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Professor Capshew's teaching areas include history of science in the 20th century, the history of psychology, the history of Indiana University, and environmental history.