Scott Nelson is the GAA Professor of History at the University of Georgia and the author of Iron Confederacies (1999); Steel Drivin' Man (2006), which won the OAH Merle Curti Prize; and A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters (2012). A children's book entitled Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry (2007) is based on his research. He is a coauthor of A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War (2007) and is currently working on a history of the international wheat trade, the Panic of 1873, and the Russian Revolution.
Richard Scarry's children's book, What Do People Do All Day, gets children to think about how the world works - how factories operate, how flour is made, how electricity is produced. While most people put away those nosy questions as adults, historians continue to worry about them. We obsess about the little details and narrate and re-narrate stories about the past until they make sense, and that narration leads to new questions. In this sense history is more like the traditional sciences (physics, chemistry, and biology) than the social sciences. When historians are unwilling to give up the Richard Scarry questions, they can discover things they never intended, and can bring about change, often in ways that are difficult to understand.