Edward Linenthal

Emeritus Professor, Department of History

Department of History

  • etl@indiana.edu
IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

My graduate student years at UC Santa Barbara started me on an interesting professional path, one that I never envisioned while working on a dissertation examining the warrior as a religious figure in America. I went directly from Santa Barbara to the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, where I spent 25 years in the department of religious studies. I never cared much, however, for disciplinary boundaries, nor for the academic jargon that each discipline seems to prize too much. I was interested in investigating and writing for a larger public about the less examined, that which did not, at first glance, seem “religious.” So, for example, in 1987-88 I was a Research Fellow in the Arms Control and Defense Policy Program at MIT, where I did the research for my book Symbolic Defense: The Cultural Significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative, which examined how supporters and opponents of the so-called “Star Wars” missile defense system mobilized powerful American myths and symbols to make their case. At this same time, I also joined Ira Chernus in co-editing A Shuddering Dawn: Religious Studies and the Nuclear Age. Throughout the 1980s, I was also at work on a larger project, which eventually became my next book, Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, which examined processes of veneration, defilement, and redefinition at five sites: Lexington and Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Little Bighorn and Pearl Harbor. This project also began, happily, an ongoing relationship with the National Park Service. I worked for NPS at the 50th anniversary ceremonies at Pearl Harbor, and delivered the commemorative address at the memorial in 1994. I have also been a long-time consultant to NPS on interpretation of controversial historic sites, and from 2003-2005, I was a half-time Visiting Scholar in NPS’s Civic Engagement and Public History program. I served for almost a decade as a member of the federal advisory commission for the memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001. I co-direct a Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar each summer at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, "9/11 and American Memory," and I have served on an advisory group for the memorialization of those murdered on the island of Utøya, Norway, on July 22, 2011.

Honors and Awards

  • Visiting Fellow, Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Religion and Public Life, University of California, Santa Barbara (Spring 2004)
  • Visiting Scholar, Civic Engagement and Public History, National Park Service (2003-2005)
  • Leonard E. Greenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Trinity University (March 2002)
  • College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Achievement Award, Western Michigan University (2002)
  • Faculty, Salzburg Seminar (March 2001)
  • Edward M. Penson Endowed Chair, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (1999-2003)
  • Research Fellow, The Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin Madison (1998-1999)
  • John McN Rosebush University Professor, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (1989-1990)
  • Research Fellow, Defense and Arms Control Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1986-1987)
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (1984-1985)

Research Interests

  • Public history
  • War, genocide, and memory
  • American religious history
  • Holocaust studies


  • Ph.D. at University of California, Santa Barbara, 1979

Courses Taught

  • Memory of Catastrophe
  • The Senses in History
  • The Holocaust and American Memory
  • Nuclear Weapons in American Culture
  • American Sacred Space (and beyond)
  • World War II



  • Co-edited with Jonathan Hyman and Christiane Gruber, The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer's Journey. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.
  • The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Co-edited with Tom Engelhardt, History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1996. (Selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of the 10 most significant non-fiction books of 1996, and recipient of an “Award of Merit” from the American Association for State and Local History.)
  • Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum. 2nd edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
  • Co-edited with David Chidester, American Sacred Space. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
  • Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields. 2nd edition. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1993.
  • Symbolic Defense: the Cultural Significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative.  Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1989.