Robert J. McNamara has been writing and editing the History1800s site for About.com since late 2007.
Robert began working professionally as a journalist during his sophomore year of college in New York City. During his magazine career he worked on the staff at Rolling Stone, and as a freelance writer and fact checker he was affiliated with major magazines including New York, Esquire, Spy, and the magazine sections of major newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News.
In the digital era, Robert was was one of the first freelance editors hired in 1996 by a then-upstart company on the Web, Amazon.com. He stayed with Amazon.com for seven years, and was the company’s first nonfiction editor and later its first history editor. During the years that Amazon.com employed a thriving editorial department, Robert wrote articles about books and authors, interviewed historians, and published countless reviews.
With About.com, Robert launched the History1800s site in late 2007. During the site’s existence it has attracted a large audience of history buffs, students, and general readers who often arrive while Googling an endless variety of questions about history.
Robert studied history and journalism at New York University.
By Robert McNamara:
Working at magazines in my 20s was essentially my graduate school. In the ridiculously busy office of a national magazine you receive a solid grounding in lifelong skills such as reporting, research, and writing with some style. You learn to address a broad audience. And the discipline of meeting intractable deadlines is invaluable.
While working at Rolling Stone early in my career I’d spend typical workdays concerned with bands like Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen, or The Replacements. Yet on the F Train going home to Brooklyn I’d be reading fairly serious history books. I’d occasionally write freelance articles dealing with historic subjects, but at the time there wasn’t much opportunity to consistently write about history for a broad and engaged audience. The emergence of the Web, and my eventual affiliation with About.com, made that possible.
My writing about history is grounded in my early journalistic training. It’s not enough to be accurate. What you write about history should also be engaging. It should tell the reader why something mattered. And it should provide clarity, in a style suitable for computer screens or smartphones. Ideally, it should inform and entertain.
History matters. And the stories of the 19th century matter a lot. We can’t fully understand our lives today without knowing something of the struggles and triumphs of people in the 1800s.
A note to publishers: I do not work at the About.com office in New York City, and while I appreciate receiving review copies, it's best to contact me first to confirm my correct mailing address.
A note to readers: It’s great to hear from readers and I appreciate questions and suggestions. However, while I’ve done some genealogical work (and learned a lot about Irish records in the process), I’m not a professional genealogist. And in nearly all cases I wouldn’t be the best person to ask about finding ancestors.