Michaelmas 2020 Term Card

When we started OxEARS back in 2018, we had a couple of major goals in mind. The first was to share our space – the city of Oxford, and our intellectual home at the Rothermere American Institute – with a host of likeminded scholars who, like us, were just starting out on their academic careers. The second and most important goal, however, was to learn. Feeling adrift in a sea of Things We Should Have Read and Questions We Should Have Thought About, we decided to invite a range of budding experts with different interests to bring their knowledge to us and, by extension, our community.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has forced us to take a rain check on our first aim. Sad as it is not to be able to share a formal dinner or an informal pint with our colleagues from out of town, however, our new remote model has encouraged us to refocus on that second, essential aim: building a solid base of learning about the key issues in our field. Over the course of twelve sessions, this year’s speakers will explore themes and problems central to the historiography of the early republic today, from money to markets to material culture, via constitutionalism, nationalism, racism, and imperialism. Across the 2020-21 series, we will discuss historical figures as diverse as elite white novel-readers, Indigenous women petitioners in New England, and African American emigrants to the British Empire. We are pleased to welcome presenters and, we hope, audiences from a broad range of institutions across the United Kingdom and the United States to contribute to these conversations.

Our first speaker of the year will be Evan Turiano (a former convenor of our sister seminar, CUNY EARS) with a paper on the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law and the American response to Mansfield’s Somerset ruling. The day after the presidential election, November 4, Evelyn Strope will join us from Cambridge to talk nationalism and material culture during the War of 1812. We then return to the foundational intersection of race and the law with Derek Litvak’s paper on ‘Anti-Blackness and the Creation of U.S. Citizenship,’ and finish up the term with archivist Jennifer McGillan, who will explore the making and uses of archival collections from the early Mississippi frontier.

Throughout the year, our events will be held every other Wednesday in term at 4.30pm GMT/BST. (For those joining us from other timezones, daylight savings may begin and end on different days in different regions, so please do check the time difference in advance.)

All of our events this academic year will be held on Zoom. Links to the meetings will be sent out via our mailing list, as will pre-circulated papers. To be added to the list, please email grace.mallon@univ.ox.ac.uk.


Week 2: Wednesday 21st October, 4.30pm BST

Evan Turiano (The Graduate Center, CUNY), ‘”The Law Must Rule Us:” Somerset and the Limits of the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law’

Evan Turiano is a PhD Candidate in History at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and a Writing Across the Curriculum Fellow at LaGuardia Community College. His dissertation, “Running toward Abolition: Fugitive Slaves, Legal Rights, and the Coming of the Civil War,” examines the political conflict over the legal rights of accused fugitive slaves from before the Revolution through the onset of the Civil War. He’s received fellowships from the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, the Nau Center for Civil War History, and the Colonial Dames of America.


Week 4: Wednesday 4th November, 4.30pm GMT

Evelyn Strope (Cambridge), ‘Naval Nationalism: The Material Culture of the War of 1812’

Evelyn Strope is a PhD Candidate in American History at Newnham College, Cambridge. She holds an MPhil in American History from Cambridge and a BA in History from the College of William & Mary, where she was part of the NIAHD Collegiate Program in Early American History, Material Culture, and Museum Studies. Her broader research interests include the politics of consumption, material culture, and race, class, and gender in early America. Her doctoral thesis, entitled “The Politics of Material Culture in the Early Republic, 1800-1815,” has been generously supported by Newnham College, the Cambridge Faculty of History, the Cambridge Trust, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the American Philosophical Society.


Week 6: Wednesday 18th November, 4.30pm GMT

Derek Litvak (UMD, College Park), ‘A Peculiar Status: Anti-Blackness and the Creation of U.S. Citizenship’

Derek Litvak is a history Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland – College Park. He received his B.A. in history from Virginia Tech in 2016. Derek studies constitutional history, race, and slavery in the American Revolution and Early National periods. His dissertation is entitled The Specter of Black Citizens: Race, Slavery, and Citizenship in the Early United States. By using court cases, legislative debates, newspaper articles, and cultural sources, Derek argues citizenship was defined in opposition to free and enslaved Black Americans, who were purposefully excluded from citizenship at its inception, in a move that helped create a more homogenous (white) national identity and strengthened slavery’s hold on the nation.


Week 8: Wednesday 2nd December, 4.30pm GMT

Jennifer McGillan (Mississippi State University Libraries), ‘Writing Home: Dispatches from the Mississippi Frontier’

Jennifer McGillan has been the Coordinator of Manuscripts at Mississippi State University since 2015. She has previously worked at Columbia University Medical Center Archives, the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest (now the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey), and Susquehanna University. She has a BA in English from Davidson College (1997), an MLIS-Archives from the University of Pittsburgh (2003), and a JD from New York Law School (2012). Her research interests include handwriting and human communication; community cookbooks and food history; 19th c. legal history; genealogy; and pirates.

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