With ten permanent academic staff, a visiting Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, three emeriti, and several junior research fellows in residence, Cambridge possesses one of the largest and most vigorous assemblies of scholars in American history outside of the United States. The staff is strong across the entire span of American history, from the seventeenth century to the present, and from social, cultural, and borderlands history to the history of politics, political thought, and foreign relations. The course on American History is one of the most popular of the undergraduate options in Part I of the Historical Tripos. There is a thriving MPhil in American History, and a lively and diverse community of PhD students working on a broad range of topics. PhDs from the programme have been appointed to posts in US history throughout Britain. The subject group is led by Gary Gerstle, Paul Mellon Professor of American History, who succeeded Professor Anthony Badger in this post in October 2014.
Cambridge American History Seminar
This seminar meets on Mondays, during term, in Sidney Sussex College, from 5pm. In a typical year, twenty or more scholars drawn from universities across the UK, Europe, and the US present new and unpublished research to this seminar. Professor Gerstle convenes these meetings, which are open to all scholars and graduate students in Cambridge and beyond interested in American history. The roster of speakers past years and this include Ari Kelman, Brooke Blower, Jennifer Luff, David Blight, Susan Carruthers, Kate Masur, Barbara Savage, Corey Robin, Alex Goodall, Tony Badger, Naomi Lamoreaux, David Minto, Peter Mancall, Peniel Joseph, Michael Kazin, Elizabeth Hinton, Jamelle Bouie, Nancy Cott, and Heather Thompson.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we are running seminars online this year and on a biweekly (rather than weekly) basis.
The Pitt Professorship
Since its establishment in the 1940s, the Pitt Professorship has brought to Cambridge many of the most distinguished US-based scholars working on American history and social science. The ranks of Pitt historians include Henry Steele Commager, Daniel Boorstin, John Hope Franklin, Eugene Genovese, Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, Richard Hofstadter, Eric Foner, Mary Beth Norton, James Patterson, Daniel Rodgers, Nancy Hewitt, James Kloppenberg, Alan Brinkley, David Blight, Margaret Jacobs, Loïc Wacquant, Ira Katznelson and Naomi Lamoreaux. The 2019-2020 Pitt Professor was Heather Thompson, Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pitt Professor elected for this year, Theresa Singleton, Syracuse University, will come to Cambridge next year (2021-2022), along with the Pitt Professor elected for next year, Kathleen Brown, University of Pennsylvania.
Mellon Research Fellow
The faculty regularly appoints a postdoctoral Mellon Research Fellow to pursue original and significant research in American history. A fellow can hold the post for three years. The current Mellon Fellow is Emma Teitelman, who earned her PhD in 2018 at the University of Pennsylvania. Past Mellon Fellows include Seth Archer, Utah State University; Katharina Rietzler, University of Sussex; Elizabeth Shermer, Loyola University (Chicago); Jay Sexton, University of Missouri; Francois Furstenberg, Johns Hopkins University; Emily Clark, Tulane University; Tim Minchin, La Trobe University (Australia); and Sarah Pearsall, Cambridge.
American History Workshop
The American History Workshop (AHW) offers PhD students an opportunity to share and improve their academic writing through constructive peer review. The workshop also organises discussions of seminal historical texts and methodologies and sponsors academic skills sessions. Mellon Fellow Emma Teitelman convenes the AHW.
Conferences and Colloquia
The Mellon Professorial Fund supports a large number and variety of conferences, most recently, 'Global History of Democracy in the Modern Era', organised by Eugenio Biagini and Gary Gerstle. In the last two years, Sarah Pearsall has organised two conferences: 'Marriage’s Global Past' and the biannual meeting of the British Group of Early American Historians (BGEAH). Other past conferences included those on civil rights, the New Deal, transnational influences on American history, political culture in the Early Republic, indigenous and borderlands history, and southern women’s history.
Cambridge was instrumental in launching both BGEAH (founded by Dr Betty Wood) and the Association of British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH). The Mellon Fund helps to support BrANCH'S annual meeting. A new Consortium on the History of State and Society (CHSS) has been established, bringing together scholars at Cambridge, the American University of Paris, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan. Cambridge has sponsored two CHSS workshops on 'States of Exception in American History', one in Cambridge in 2015 and a second one in Chicago in 2018. Another consortium with Princeton University and Boston University supports an annual conference in American political history. Cambridge has also hosted conferences of the British Association for American Studies, the European Southern Studies Forum, and the Southern Intellectual History Circle.
The Mellon Fund also provides financial support for an exchange programme for graduate students in American History at Cambridge and the History Department at Boston University. Other collaborations are currently under development.
Historical Perspectives on the 2020 American Election and Beyond
We have collected writings, podcasts, and interviews done by members of our subject group in regard to the 2020 election and the future of American politics. To view please click here.
Emma Stone Mackinnon
Dr Sarah M. S. Pearsall
Dr Mike Sewell
Banner image: Publicity photo of the Marx Brothers in 1946. Wikicommons