When history Professor Charles Bolton moved to Arkansas more than 30 years ago, he embraced his newly adopted state, becoming a champion for Arkansas history and discovering hidden gems in the state’s past through his research.
Dr. Bolton shaped a history of Arkansas from tax records, census information, and crop records. He found the image that so many Arkansans reluctantly accepted – that of the impoverished, dim-witted resident – was far from the truth. According to colleagues, his scholarly efforts served to open new vistas in the state’s social and economic history.
“Arkansans had an inferiority complex,” Dr. Bolton said. “What I feel good about is that my interpretation of Arkansas history takes in that negative stuff. I’m not saying everything was rosy, but I’ve been able to demonstrate that there were a lot of positive things going on. In 1840, Arkansans grew enough corn to feed everybody in the state and then to feed about half as many people again. They raised more hogs and horses on average than Missouri or Mississippi.”
By using his training in economic history, Dr. Bolton is able to analyze records historians are often unable – or unwilling – to examine. This analysis has created a picture of pre-Civil War Arkansas as a vibrant economy more in the tradition of the Southern states than those of the Wild West.
Because he believes that a well-rounded research history is more fulfilling than one focused in a single era, Dr. Bolton has also conducted research on the Anglican Church in Colonial South Carolina and for the Army Corps of Engineers in Arkansas and Mississippi. He was in demand when the United States celebrated the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase and has become known as an expert on the Cherokee removal in Arkansas.
Dr. Bolton earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and completed a master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was recognized with the Best Paper Award from the Arkansas Association of College History Teachers in 2004 and won the Booker Worthen Literary Prize from the Central Arkansas Library System in 1999. Currently president of the Arkansas Association of College History Teachers, he is also a member of the Organization of American Historians and the Arkansas Historical Association. Dr. Bolton serves on the editorial board of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly.