I am fortunate to have been able to enjoy a career as an historian. Both teaching and research have enabled me to pursue many topics and issues that struck me as being of interest and importance. Although I think of myself as primarily an American historian, much of my writing, both past and current, has grown out of my studies and research in Ireland and England. I wanted to understand the process through which Ireland became a self-governing and independent nation, and particularly the role of the United States and Great Britain in that process. My teaching at the University of Manitoba led me to consider a similar triangular relationship between Canada, the United States, and Great Britain, leading to my work on the Canadian-American boundary. I also began to develop an interest in the history of the region in which I had grown up—northern Minnesota—and the realization that northern Minnesota had also played a significant role in Canadian-American relations and even Irish migration to the upper mid-west. It has been a particular pleasure for me to write several books on aspects of northern Minnesota. These projects have helped me to keep in touch with the region even though I have lived most of my adult life in other countries.
In writing history I have been drawn to topics that have not been extensively studied by other historians, or at least have not been examined in recent years. I find a particular pleasure in attempting to explain a topic on which no one else has written. I also enjoy archival and manuscript research. There is a sense of immediacy in working with the original historical documents, and there is also something of the thrill of the hunt. Converting the notes to a narrative is always laborious, but reshaping the material through revising the drafts provides its own satisfaction. I have found writing and research to be a great help in my teaching, and publishing to be a way in which to maintain a place within the historical profession and also to reach out to the reading public.
I have also been able to take advantage of several special academic appointments, such as that of visiting scholar, visiting fellow, or visiting professor. Thus while holding a permanent appointment at the University of Manitoba, I have been able to live for periods of time in such interesting places as Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston, Saint Paul, Dublin, Belfast, and London. These experiences not only facilitated my research and writing but they also very much enriched my life.
Francis M. Carroll