Nicolas Bell-Romero

Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry

I am a historian of early North America with a particular interest in the origins, events, and consequences of the American Revolution. I have a PhD in History at the University of Cambridge. I also have a Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from the University of Sydney in Australia.

My research primarily looks at the politics of naming: the act of labelling persons, groups, and events and the power relations and cultural changes that process involves and reveals. I applied this approach in my doctoral thesis, which explored the politics of epithets – identity terms (like “patriot,” “republican,” and “American”) that people at the time used to describe themselves, build bonds of belonging, and label their opponents – from the start of the imperial crisis in 1763 through to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. My first book, provisionally titled Fighting Words in the American Revolution, 1763-87, will develop these ideas further. This research has been generously supported by the David Library of the American Revolution, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, International Centre for Jefferson Studies, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, and William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, among others.

I am also applying my expertise in the American Revolution and its aftermath as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Legacies of Enslavement inquiry at Cambridge. I am using my knowledge of slavery and abolition in this period to examine the education of slaveholders (including three signatories to the Declaration of Independence) at Cambridge, and the crucial role of those students in the West India lobby, which defended slavery until the institution’s abolition throughout the British Empire in 1833. I am also interested in the role of Cambridge fellows and alumni in perpetuating proslavery and racial thought from the creation of the Virginia Company in 1606 until the rise of eugenics and the new racial science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

North American History from c. 1500 to 1865

The American Revolution in Unexpected Places

Historical Argument and Practice: Concepts and Problems

‘Growing Pains: Reforming Epithets during the American Revolution, 1776-82’, Through the Nation: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Identities and Space, Cambridge, 24 June 2019.

‘Civil Wars and Uncivil Words: Radicalising Epithets in the American Rebellion, 1775-76’, Consortium on the Revolutionary Era, Atlanta, USA, 28 February 2019.

‘Growing Pains: Epithets and the Problem of American Nationhood, 1776-82’, Early American Republic Seminar, University of Oxford, 23 January 2019.

‘The Power of Epithets in the American Revolution’, Nelson Lankford Colloquia, Virginia Historical Society, 9 August 2017.

‘Remembering the Rebellion: British Intellectuals and American Revolutionary Memory, 1783-95’, History and Authority: Political Vocabularies of the Modern Age conference, Australian National University, 28 July 2016.

‘The Virginia Civil War, 1775-76’, Australia and New Zealand American Studies Association conference (ANZASA), University of Sydney, 7 July 2016.


Tags & Themes


Centre of African Studies, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP


Key publications

Book Chapters:

‘A Series of Unfortunate Events: Chichester Cheyne’s Revolutionary War, 1778-1783’, in Todd Andrlik, ed., Journal of the American Revolution, Annual Volume 2017 (Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2017), pp. 319-325.

‘The Civil War’, in Marjoleine Kars, Michael A. McDonnell, and Andrew M. Schocket, eds., Cambridge History of the American Revolution, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, TBD).

Other Works:

‘A Long Rifle’, Doing History in Public, , published 8 December 2019.

‘Group Interview Series’, Journal of the American Revolution, published 2-6 January 2017.