Ariel Ron, Director

Ariel Ron joined the Clements Center as director in 2024.  Ariel is the Glenn M. Linden Associate Professor of the U.S. Civil War in SMU's Department of History. He received his PhD from Berkeley. Ariel is a historian of nineteenth-century U.S. politics and economics, with particular interest in agriculture, energy and development. The most up-to-date information about his work can usually be found on his personal website.

His first book, Grassroots Leviathan: Northern Agricultural Reform in the Slaveholding Republic, came out in 2020 with Johns Hopkins University Press and won best-book awards from the Agricultural History Society and the Center for Civil War Research.

Ariel is currently working on a book for Norton tentatively called King Hay: The Equine Energy Regime in America, 1800-1950. It tells the story of how literal horse power formed an indispensable linchpin of the industrial energy system that carried the United States into the carbon age. During the nineteenth century, coal and other fossil fuels transformed America and the world, initiating an unprecedented era of rapid and sustained economic growth. Counterintuitively, this momentous development also brought a new age of the horse. Between 1840 and 1910—the period of mass immigration to the country—the national horse population grew faster than the human population. Horses got bigger, too, as heavier breeds were introduced to provide traction for everything from short-haul transportation to agricultural mechanization. Importantly, keeping horses at work meant growing and distributing immense quantities of fodder. This explains why, throughout the 1800s, American hay production was of comparable value to American cotton, one of the era's most important—and iconic—industrial raw materials. Yet while cotton and other global agricultural commodities, such as wheat, have been studied extensively, virtually no attention has been given to the distinctive economy tasked with fueling the era's irreplaceable prime mover. A look at the extensive operations of the equine energy regime therefore promises to reveal a great deal about the spatial, economic, political and social dynamics of industrial society in the period before roughly 1950.

Ariel held fellowships at the Library Company of Philadelphia, Yale University’s Center for the Study of Representative Institutions, Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities, and, most recently, at the Library of Congress’s Kluge Center.  He occasionally serve as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working toward a viable protein future.