History Peeps: Troy Bickham, Professor of History
Professor Troy Bickham has a talent for making people feel welcome. His openness to experience, curiosity about the world around him, and sense of humor make it easy for others to open up. Whether chatting about politics in the early American republic, the joys and perils of puppy parenthood, or the hot and sweaty process of boiling forty gallons of tree sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, conversations have a natural and easy flow. His ability to connect with others has shaped his career as a historian.
For the better part of a decade, Dr. Bickham worked overseas in various administrative roles at Texas A&M in Qatar. His positions have taken him to forty countries and every continent except Antarctica. In turn, he has brought American history to global audiences. Dr. Bickham notes with delight the many Aggie traditions that the Qatar campus celebrated during his tenure. Students who wore maroon on Thursdays got a warm Krispy Kreme doughnut. During “Grilling with the Deans,” he and other faculty barbequed hamburgers on the quad using an enormous Texas-made smoker.
A historian of Britain and the British Empire, and elected member of the Royal Historical Society, Dr. Bickham hopes his students learn to see history through multiple perspectives. Rather than focus exclusively on well-known documents or figures, he encourages them to dig deep to recover and spotlight voices usually excluded from the written record. He wants students to glean the historical experiences of as many people as possible—and recognize the significance of ordinary people’s day-to-day lives.
To what historical figure would Troy Bickham like to say “Howdy,” given the chance? Dr. Bickham muses that the conversational nature of cooking interests him. He says, “That would be fascinating—to spend an afternoon cooking a meal, preparing it at the fire, and everything else and eating it with an ordinary woman from any period of history that’s early modern or earlier.” In their time together, he’d like to ask, “What’s she cooking? How did she do that? What’s she worried about? What’s her life story?”
[By Jennifer Wells ’24]