Collegiate Assistant Professor

Affiliate Faculty in History

PhD 2019 (government) Harvard University
BA Duke University

Research Interests

Early-modern England; Atlantic history; early American history; intellectual history; freedom; slavery; race; cartography


Although I was trained as an historian of political thought, my own research has expanded in scope over time. The aim of my book manuscript, on the intellectual origins of American slavery, is to understand how the most terrible wrong in the history of the nation first came to be seen, not only as necessary or profitable, but as legitimate from a moral point of view. My focus in this work is on English culture in the period from 1550 to 1700. Within this broad field, I draw upon texts in a number of genres that in the present are often assumed to have been distinct, from political theory to travel narrative, legal treatise to theological discourse, biblical genealogy to description of the world, and so on. I draw upon such texts in order to trace the development to which they contribute of complex and often unfamiliar ideas about freedom, slavery, and race as well as war, death, and civility. Only in the final chapter of this six-chapter manuscript do I move forward in time and westward in space to examine certain gradual but dramatic shifts in Anglo-American discourse over the course of the eighteenth century. The book ends with an Epilogue on Thomas Jefferson in context. My hope by this point is to have helped the reader to see that Jefferson came at the end of a long arc of development as well as at the start of another, more familiar one.

A brief talk about this project is available here.

Front Table Mentor: Jennifer Pitts.


“The Late Career of Prester John” (research note in progress).

“Freedom, Slavery, History: On the Human in Rousseau” (in draft).

“Freedom and Slavery at the Origins of Modern Political Thought” (in draft).

“Locke and the Churchill Catalogue Revisited,” Locke Studies, 17 (Feb., 2018).

“Two Concepts of a Slave in the South Carolina Law of Slavery,” Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 39:1 (2018).

“‘Tumult and Silence’ in the Study of the American Slave Revolts,” Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 36:2 (2015).

“The Mysterious Lincoln,” Raritan: A Quarterly Review, 32:4 (2014).

“Detective Fiction and the Aesthetic of Crime,” Raritan: A Quarterly Review, 34:1 (2013).

“‘A Fierce Silence Falls’: Lu Xun’s Call to Arms,” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, 55:1 (2013).

“Sherlock Holmes, Crime, and the Anxieties of Globalization” (with Michael Allen Gillespie), Critical Review, 23:4 (2011).