Dr Robert Lee

University lecturer in American History
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Dr Robert Lee

I’m an historian of the United States focused on Indigenous dispossession and US state formation in the nineteenth century American West. I have a PhD in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an MA in American Studies from the Universität Heidelberg, and a BA in History and Economics from Columbia University. I was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows before I came to Cambridge.

My research focuses on North American colonization, mostly in the nineteenth century. I’m currently writing a history of US expansion by Indian treaty, using an approach that combines archival digging with spatial analysis in GIS. The book focuses on an important but obscure institution—the St. Louis Superintendency—whose administration of the Indian treaty line influenced a string of well-known events, from the Lewis and Clark expedition to Bleeding Kansas. By restoring those connections, the project illuminates how dispossession by treaty shaped the development of the United States. An article growing out of this study, “Accounting for Conquest: The Price of the Louisiana Purchase of Indian Country,” appeared in The Journal of American History, and received awards from the Organization of American Historians, the Western History Association, and the Society for History in the Federal Government. That piece also forms the first in a series of articles I’m working on that use GIS to revisit longstanding questions about the territorial and demographic history of the American West. The latest of these projects, “Land-Grab Universities,” detailed how Indigenous land funded land-grant colleges across the United States. Interactive maps and data from that project can be explored at landgrabu.org.

I welcome inquiries from prospective postgraduate students interested in the colonization of North America, the American West, environmental history, Indigenous history, and digital humanities.

I teach Paper 22 (American History to 1865), supervise Part II dissertations on early American and nineteenth century topics, and teach and supervise for the MPhil in American History.

Contact

Tags & Themes

Address

Faculty of History
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9EF

Email
rl605@cam.ac.uk
Links

Key Publications

“Land-Grab Universities,” High Country News, March 30, 2020. Co-authored with Tristan Ahtone.

“Accounting for Conquest: The Price of the Louisiana Purchase of Indian Country,” Journal of American History 104, no. 4 (March 2017): 921-942.

          * Binkley-Stephenson Award for best article in the Journal of American History

          * Bolton-Cutter Award for best article on any phase of the history of the North American Borderlands

          * James Madison Prize for excellence in an article on the US federal government

          * Louis Pelzer Award for best essay in American History by a graduate student

“The ‘Disciplined Imagination’: Karl Bodmer’s Expeditionary Art as Historical Documents,” in Katharina Erhard and Karsten Fitz, eds., Visual Representations of Native Americans: Transnational Contexts and Perspectives (Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2012).

Other Publications

“The land-grant universities still profiting off Indigenous homelands,” High Country News, August 18, 2020. Co-authored with Kalen Goodluck and Tristan Ahtone.

“Exposing How US Universities Profited from Indigenous Land,” Global Investigative Journalism Network, May 19, 2020. Co-authored with Tristan Ahtone.

“Ask Who Paid for America’s Universities,” New York Times, May 7, 2020. Co-authored with Tristan Ahtone.

"How we investigated the land-grant university system," High Country News, March 30, 2020.

"Further reading on HCN’s land-grants university investigation," High Country News, March 30, 2020.

"The True Cost of the Louisiana Purchase," Slate, March 1, 2017.

Digital

landgrabu.org, April 2020. Produced with Tristan Ahtone, Margaret Pearce, Kalen Goodluck, Geoff McGhee, Cody Leff, Katherine Lanpher and Taryn Salinas.

Data