Department of History

James Capshew

  • Associate Professor, Department of History and Philosophy of Science
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, American Studies Program
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Education
  • Editor, History of Psychology


  • B.A. at Indiana University, 1979
  • A.M. at University of Pennsylvania, 1982
  • Ph.D. at University of Pennsylvania, 1986

Contact Information

Goodbody Hall, Rm. 125
(812) 855-3655


James Capshew

The protean field of psychology—discipline, institution, cultural form—provides inspiration and information for my 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 my research. Current projects include a global survey of psychology in the 20th century, and a study of neuropsychological pathography.

I serve as Editor of History of Psychology, a research journal sponsored by the American Psychological Association.

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 my 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.

Selected Awards

  • Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award (2006)
  • College Arts & Humanities Institute Grant (2005)
  • Wells Biography Project Grant, IU Arts & Humanities Initiative (2001-2002)

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

Courses Recently Taught

  • Survey of the History of Science 1750
  • History of Psychology Seminar
  • History of American Science
  • Scientists at Work
  • Exploring Neuropsychological Pathography
  • History and Traditions of Indiana University (web course)
  • Indiana University, Past and Present

Publication Highlights


[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, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999.


"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.

"Home Design for Indiana University: Herman B Wells and the Furnishing of the Campus." Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History 12, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 30-56.