Pirate, Slave Trade, & Seafaring Expert Joins SHC History Department

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 11:30am
image upload by lreese

Dr. David Head dropped anchor in Mobile Bay this semester, joining Spring Hill College as an assistant professor in the Department of History.

Head, who graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo in 2010, brings a plethora of knowledge to SHC’s students. Of particular interest to members of the Gulf Coast community should be Dr. Head’s research interests in Maritime History and seafaring adventurers, as well as the American Revolution and the early republic.

His recent community presentations include “The Wolf by the Ear:  Slavery in the Old South,” “1812: The War That Didn’t Settle Anything But Made Americans Proud,” and “Frequently Arrrgh-st Questions: A Pirate FAQ.”

Head’s conference lectures include “The Invasions of Amelia Island, East Florida, 1817,” “Cruising the Gulf of Mexico: French and Spanish American Privateering from Louisiana, 1810-1815,” and “Slave-Smuggling Privateers: The Laffite Brothers and the Louisiana Slave Trade, 1805-1820.”

The University of Georgia Press plans to publish Dr. Head’s first book within the next year. The planned title is To Sail in Foreign Wars: Spanish American Privateering from the United States and the Influence of Geopolitics in the Early Republic.


SHC:  How you feel about joining the Spring Hill College faculty and working with the students here?

Dr. Head: I am very excited to be at Spring Hill and I have enjoyed meeting the students. In the brief time that I’ve been on campus, I've been impressed by the sense of community that the college creates. It feels like there is a sense of mission or common purpose among the faculty and a dedication to do what is best for the students at all times.

SHC:  Why is SHC a good fit for you?

Dr. Head: Spring Hill has a number of characteristics that I find attractive. The small size of the school means that I'll have to opportunity to work closely with students, getting to know them as individual persons rather than as just a name on the roster page. I'm also attracted to the small size of the faculty. So far, I've noticed that everyone seems to call each other by their first names – and everyone else knows who they're talking about. It will be nice to be seen by others as an individual person ­– and not just another name on the faculty roster.

In addition, the campus is beautiful, and, having lived in Florida for several years after growing up in Buffalo, New York, I've come to appreciate a mild winter. (August weather, however, is a different story, best left alone!)

SHC:  What are you most excited about?

Dr. Head: I'm very excited to be a part of a school with a clear mission. That sense of mission comes from the college's Catholic, Jesuit heritage, and I think that will help bring the faculty and students together in a larger sense of purpose. One of the challenges facing colleges today is that, for various reasons, a college education has been very specialized, with great time and attention devoted to work in individual disciplines or specialties within disciplines.

The Catholic approach to education acknowledges the need for specialization while also continuing to call students to see the unity in the things they are learning. In this way, a science student can take a history course and know that there's a point to it, a point beyond simply checking off a required course. All of our courses combine to help students become mature, well-rounded men and women, regardless of what major they may choose or what career they will pursue in the future.

SHC: What are your goals for the program?

Dr. Head: I'm looking forward to contributing to the continuing excellence of the history department and the program in humanities and social sciences, especially as the college grows with the large incoming class of freshmen. Convincing freshmen that history is worth their time is a challenge, but it's always one that I enjoy.

For the history majors, I'm looking forward to helping them develop their skills as historians while also helping them navigate the transition from school to a career.


Dr. Head’s current class offerings include History 101: a survey of western civilization from the Classical Period to the mid-1600s, as well as History 342: The American Revolution. In the spring, Dr. Head will offer History 104: the survey of United States history from Reconstruction to the present, and History 497: the Ages of Jefferson and Jackson covering American history from 1789-1848.