Nicolas Bell-Romero

Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry
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I am a historian of early North America with a particular interest in the origins, events, and consequences of the American Revolution. Under the supervision of Dr Sarah Pearsall, I have just completed 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 that process involves and reveals. I applied this approach in my 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 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 abolitionists in creating a narrative that attacked 'American slavery', but, in framing enslavement as an 'American' problem, allowed Britons to distance themselves from culpability for the British Empire’s worst excesses.

Alongside this important inquiry, I am working on a couple of articles and another book project. The first article looks at how Britons remembered the American Revolution. The second essay closely examines the role of Thomas Paine in addressing a distinctly American problem of identity: how could the United States assert its independence and sovereignty when the revolutionaries were beholden to British terms – “British subject,” “whig,” “tory,” and “republican” – to describe themselves and their enemies. And looking from independence until the fifty-year anniversary of the separation from Britain in 1826, my second book project will move from the politics of naming people to that of events. It will explore the origins of a strangely under-examined phrase – the “American Revolution.”
 

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.

Contact

Tags & Themes

Address

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

Email
nnb24@cam.ac.uk
Links

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.