Prof Nicholas Guyatt

Faculty of History, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Professor of North American History
Fellow, Jesus College
Nick Guyatt

I did my BA and M.Phil. at Cambridge, and completed my Ph.D. at Princeton under the supervision of Daniel T. Rodgers. Having taught at Princeton, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and the University of York, I joined the History Faculty at Cambridge in 2014. I have been a faculty fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center (2009-10), a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow (2013-14), and the Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute in the University of Oxford (2013-14). I've written about American history and politics for the London Review of Books, the Nation magazine, the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, the New York Times and the New York Review of Books.  

I work on the history of colonial America, the Atlantic World and the United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. My work has mostly focused on questions of race and national belonging, though I'm also interested in the intellectual history of American imperialism, maritime history, histories of the early American state and of the 'identification state' more broadly, and  the development of ideas about world order during the long nineteenth century.

My first book, Providence and the Invention of the United States, examined the emergence of American religious nationalism from the founding of Virginia in 1607 to the collapse of Reconstruction. Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation explored the unsettling relationship between ideas of racial equality and programmes for racial separation in the early American republic. I've published a number of articles on racial removal projects from the American Revolution to the Civil War, including two essays in the Journal of American History. And I've recently published my third monograph, The Hated Cage, which explores how 6500 American sailors ended up in a British prison during the War of 1812 - and what their experience can tell us about maritime history, the history of the state, and about the struggles for racial integration and race-blind citizenship in the early republic.  

I'm currently working on three projects.

1. A book about Thomas Jefferson and slavery, entitled Jefferson's Wolf, which I'm co-writing with Christa Dierksheide of the University of Virginia. The book will explore Jefferson's proliferating ideas about how slavery could be ended, and will set his watery antislavery thought against the backdrop of North America's transition from an imperial to a national space. The book is under contract to Harvard University Press, and we hope to be finished long before the chaos of the 250th anniversary of 1776. (Famous last words.)

2. The Oxford Illustrated History of the United States, which I'm editing for OUP. The fifteen contributors are _amazing_ and I am very excited about what they've produced. Despite the disruptions of Covid, we're pretty confident that Oxford will publish the book in 2023. 

3. A history of American ideas about imperialism from the mid-eighteenth century through the early twentieth, with a focus on how Americans viewed other people's empires. Part of me thinks that I will never actually write this book because I have taken on two other monographs since cooking up the idea; but I have an exit strategy for the topic if I keep evading the hard work of writing a really big book. Watch this space!  

I have side interests in the history of contemporary American evangelicalism, and especially in the increasingly popular view among evangelicals that the End Times are fast approaching; and in the history of contemporary international relations. But most of my MPhil and PhD students work on topics in the long nineteenth century.  

I'd be delighted to hear from prospective M.Phil. and Ph.D. students with interests in eighteenth and nineteenth century American/Atlantic history, including those with interests in the history of the wider Americas (including the Caribbean) during this period. Students who work on the history of Native Americans, African Americans, slavery/abolition and empire are especially welcome to contact me, though I'm happy to consider supervising across a broad range of topics. 

In Part I, I'm currently lecturing and supervising for Paper 22 (North American History from 1607 to 1865). In Part II, I teach a special subject entitled 'Empires and the American Imagination, 1763-1900'. I'm also available to supervise dissertations, principally on American history before 1900.

I'm on the editorial board of Zed Books, and was the editor of Zed's 'Global History of the Present' series. Along with my former colleague Luke Clossey, I've been a strong advocate of the expansion of wider world history (i.e., non-European, non-U.S. history) in North American and UK history departments. (For our work on this issue, click here.) I'm also keen to encourage undergraduates and postgraduates to pursue language study alongside their work for the History tripos, and would be happy to offer advice or assistance in this area.  


Tags & Themes


Office Phone: 01223 (3)39435.


Key Publications


The Hated Cage: An American Tragedy in Britain's Most Terrifying Prison (New York and London: Basic Books/Oneworld, 2022)

Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (New York: Basic Books, 2016)

Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607-1876 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)

War, Empire and Slavery, 1770-1830 (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2010), edited with Richard Bessel and Jane Rendall 

Articles & chapters

'Imperialism and the American Imagination,' in Michael Blaakman, Emily Conroy-Krutz and Noelani Arista, eds., The Early Imperial Republic: The American Revolution to the U.S.-Mexican War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023), 227-247

'The Righteous Cause: John Quincy Adams and the Limits of American Exceptionalism,' in Christopher McKnight Nichols and David Milne, eds., Ideology in U.S. Foreign Relations: New Histories (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2022), 135-51

‘The United States between Nation and Empire, 1776-1820,’ in Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton, eds., The Cambridge History of America and the World, Volume 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022), 35-59

'Rethinking Colonization', in Beverly Tomek and Matthew Hetrick, eds., New Directions in the Study of African Recolonization (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017)

‘Tocqueville’s Prophecy: The United States and the Caribbean, 1750-1871’, in Jörg Nagler et al., eds., The Transnational Significance of the American Civil War(London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 205-29

'"The Future Empire of Our Freedmen": Republican Colonization Schemes in Texas and Mexico, 1861-1865', in Adam Arenson and Andrew Graybill, eds., Civil War Wests (University of California Press, 2015), 95-117

'"An Impossible Idea?" The Curious Career of Internal Colonization', Journal of the Civil War Era 4 (June 2014): 234-63

'America's Conservatory: Race, Reconstruction and the Santo Domingo Controversy', Journal of American History 95 (March 2009): 974-1000

'Benjamin Franklin and the Problem of Racial Diversity', in David Waldstreicher, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Benjamin Franklin (Blackwell, 2011), 183-210

'"The Outskirts of our Happiness": Race and the Lure of Colonization in the Early Republic," Journal of American History 95 (March 2009): 986-1011

Other Publications

'It's a Small World After All: The Wider World in Historians' Peripheral Vision,' American Historical Association Perspectives Magazine, May 2013

'The End of the Cold War', in Richard H. Immerman and Petra Goedde, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War (OUP, 2013), 605-22 

Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans are Looking Forward to the End of the World (Random House/Harper Collins, 2007)

Another American Century: The United States and the World after 9/11 (Zed Books, 2003)

'"An Instrument of National Policy?" Perry Miller and the Cold War', Journal of American Studies 36 (April 2002): 107-49

The Absence of Peace: Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Zed Books, 1998)