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Department of History


James Risk

Title: Instructor
Department: History
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-9194
Office: Room 222
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
James Risk

I came to the University of South Carolina as a graduate student in 2011. Family kept me in Columbia after graduation and I joined the History Department faculty as an Instructor in 2017. I teach undergraduate surveys in the History of Science and Technology and United States History. In 2015, my teaching was recognized by the History Department when they honored me with the John A. and Annie Rice Excellence in Teaching Award. This past year, the Office of Student Disability Services similarly recognized my teaching for positively impacting the academic careers of students with disabilities.

My research primarily focuses on maritime technologies in the United States in the nineteenth century. In particular, I am interested in the scientific policy and practice of the United States Lighthouse Establishment between the creation of the United States Constitution and the American Civil War. My research has won fellowships from the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine; the Mercurians special interest group of the Society for the History of Technology, the Linda Hall Library, the Rakow Research Library at the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Institute for Humane Studies. My scholarship has reached an international audience in The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord, and local audiences in the Maryland Historical Magazine, MdHS News, and online with the California State Military Museum. An article on the quest for a universal maritime signal code has been accepted fro publication by the South Carolina Historical Magazine. I am a member of the Society for the History of Technology (SHoT), the North American Society for Oceanic History (NASOH), the National Maritime Historical Society, and the Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science (SAHMS).


I am currently working on turning my dissertation into a book. The manuscript’s working title is The Fresnel Affair: Science and Technology in the United States Lighthouse Establishment, 1789 - 1852. This manuscript will place the United States’ adoption of the Fresnel lighthouse lens in the proper context of nineteenth-century science and technology rather than the currently romanticized narrative geared toward popular audiences. In addition to the book project, I volunteer annually to judge the National History Day competition in South Carolina. I serve as a counselor for the Boy Scouts of America for their history related merit badges and I annually assist in scoring the Advanced Placement (AP) United States History exams taken by high school juniors and seniors.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.