I’m Shane Landrum, a Ph.D. candidate in American History at Brandeis University.

As a humanities scholar, I work on the history of the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries; my major subfield interests are in legal history, women’s/gender/sexuality history, and histories of public health and technology. Unusually for a historian, I have formal training and 6 years of professional experience as a software engineer, which has given me a significant interest in digital historical methods and the history of information technologies. As a graduate of interdisciplinary programs in women’s and gender studies and American studies, I’m often inclined towards subfield-crossing and interdisciplinary approaches.


My dissertation is a history of compulsory birth registration and birth certificates in the US since the middle of the 19th century. It grew out of an interest in the history of identity documents more generally. In 2006 and 2007, I read a series of articles about the problems of modern‑day Americans who lack a government birth record or a usable copy of it (a birth certificate.) Most of the serious problems had to do with being unable to prove one’s identity to a government agency: FEMA, Medicaid, local welfare offices. When I attempted to find out how large this problem was, historically speaking, I discovered a series of interlocking questions about the history of American government bureaucracies, family recordkeeping practices, and identity categories. My project relies significantly on digital methods, including fulltext newspaper searching and personal digital photos of archival materials, and I’m interested in exploring these methods further in my subsequent research.


Although my primary research interests lie in the 19th and 20th centuries, my subfields require knowledge of a longer timespan, and my teaching reflects that fact. Students can’t adequately understand Loving v. Virginia without knowing the legal history of race and slavery, or think carefully about the impact of the Sexual Revolution without knowing about 17th-century coverture and divorce. Because of this fact, I prefer to teach American legal history as a two-semester sequence divided by the Civil War, or to teach topically-focused classes which span a longer period. In undergraduate teaching, I try to help students learn how their lives have been shaped by historical trends and events. Teaching about the history of law, gender, and sexuality gives me plentiful opportunities in this regard, since almost every undergraduate has passionate opinions about at least one of these three.


As of fall 2011, I’m working on completing my dissertation and starting to look for my next paid work. My current thoughts are leaning towards full-time faculty positions in history, American studies, women’s/gender/sexuality studies, and/or digital humanities. I’m also open to mixed faculty-staff positions (sometimes called alt-ac) and short-term consulting work. Feel free to email me (srl at this domain name dot org) if you’ve got a project in mind.

Aside to technical recruiters for startups and established companies:
At this time, I’m not actively seeking full-time positions in the private sector. By March 1, 2012, I should know more about my availability for the summer and fall of 2012; please contact me then with information on any contract or full-time positions you may have available. Because I’m a working scholar in digital humanities and history, I’m most likely to be interested in technical positions which can further my research interests— especially modeling social networks in space and over time— and which allow time for my own research and writing agenda.

And in case you were curious

  • I’m not the Shane Landrum from MTV’s Road Rules, but I’ve received far more misdirected fan mail for him than I could have ever imagined. (And I’ve never even seen the show.)
  • The images at the tops of the pages are from my summer 2005 cross-USA solo bicycle tour, which followed a modified version of the Adventure Cycling Association’s Northern Tier route. It took about 11 weeks and about 4000 miles (about 55 miles per day). I did it between my first and second years of graduate school. As a native Southerner who’s spent the last 15 years living in New England, it gave me a whole new perspective on the history of the US West.