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History Peeps: Dr. Lorien Foote, Professor of History

A small puppy changed Dr. Lorien Foote’s life forever in 2015. She admits, “I am somebody that did not grow up with pets and had no interest in animals at all.” But a spring break trip to Washington, D.C., converted her. While mining the National Archives for research material, Dr. Foote stayed with a dog-owning friend. After a full day in the archives, she would find the dog waiting for her at the door. Dr. Foote recalls, “I would pat this dog, and I found it really relaxing.” Two weeks later, Dr. Foote shocked her family by adopting a black and white Shih Tzu named Buzz. Because she had never expressed the slightest interest in pets, Dr. Foote recalls, “My family was like, ‘What is Lorien doing? We’re going have to go down there and do an intervention!’” But Dr. Foote’s life shifted for the better. On neighborhood walks with Buzz, she found herself taking time to appreciate the simple beauty of her surroundings.

Buzz influenced Dr. Lorien’s professional life as well. She began to notice the frequency of animals in source material on the Civil War, her scholarly specialty. She says with a smile, “Dogs are everywhere in nineteenth-century sources because dogs are everywhere.” She sees animal studies as a window onto nineteenth-century “warrior culture.” While her current research project examines “the real contributions that dogs make to warfare,” it also dives deeply into the culture of both the U.S. Army and American Indian tribes. Dr. Foote muses, Buzz “took me in a new direction to study something I have never thought about before.”

Dr. Foote writes story-driven books to reach a wide readership. She believes historians shape society “by showing people the past and getting them to open up their vision of the world.”

To what historical figure would Dr. Foote like to say “Howdy” if given a chance? Dr. Foote would love to meet Abraham Lincoln. She’d ask if his views on race shifted during the Civil War, and about the theological views he expressed in his second inaugural, when he claimed that although God directs history, the pattern is often beyond human comprehension. As a historian searching for patterns, Dr. Foote would want to discuss what Lincoln meant.

(Jennifer Wells ’24)