Week 2: Jane Dinwoodie, ‘Camouflage Tactics’

Join us on Wednesday 23rd October at 4pm for OxEARS, where Jane Dinwoodie, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge, will be joining us to present her research. We will meet in seminar room 1 at the Rothermere American Institute on South Parks Road, and head to the pub for a drink and dinner afterwards. All are welcome!


‘In 1830, the US Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. Statesmen envisaged a radical spatial solution that would cement American power in the South; in less than a decade, they proclaimed victory, having moved 65,000 Indigenous Southerners to Indian Territory. Two centuries later, historians stress its tragedy, but still see removal as a pivot that transformed Indigenous South into Cotton Kingdom. This paper tells a different story. From Appalachia down to the Gulf, members of the Five Tribes devised various means to resist deportation. One of the most effective – though least studied – was a strategy I call “camouflage tactics,” in which individuals made themselves illegible or invisible to outsiders. Camouflage encompassed a spectrum of action. Some people claimed whiteness or to be “Citizen Indians.” Others moved to multi-ethnic places like New Orleans, strategically spoke (or pretended to speak) certain languages, or drew on relationships with white allies and biracial kin to purchase land and hide in plain sight. Some of these actions became permanent, but many were momentary and quickly superseded by new tactics. Camouflage was rarely easy, often requiring individuals to deny their origins, assume new identities, and separate from their nations. Still, it was effective. Agents’ correspondence suggests that they missed most of these actions. By blurring their identity as removeable Indians, hundreds of Indigenous Southerners successfully avoided westward deportation. In doing so, they sustained an enduring Indigenous South, subverted US policymakers’ ambitions for a complete removal, and challenged American claims to sovereignty over the region in the decades beyond.’


Jane Dinwoodie is a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge University. From July 2020, she will be a Lecturer in nineteenth-century American history at University College London. She received her doctorate at Oxford University in 2017, under the supervision of Professor Pekka Hämäläinen. Her current book project centres on Indian removal and the thousands of individuals, families, and communities that avoided it.

Week 1: Stephanie Lawton, ‘Praises to the Dead’

Join us on Wednesday 16th October at 5pm for the first OxEARS of Michaelmas Term, where Stephanie Lawton, a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia, will be joining us to discuss her pre-circulated paper. We will meet in seminar room 1 at the Rothermere American Institute on South Parks Road, and head to the pub for a drink and dinner afterwards. All are welcome! If you are not on our mailing list and would like a copy of the paper, please email grace.mallon@univ.ox.ac.uk or stephen.symchych@sant.ox.ac.uk.


Tombs. Eulogies. Death Masks. Triumphal processions. One expects to encounter these words in a history of the ancient Greco-Roman world. But in the nineteenth-century, Americans performed similar rites to commemorate the lives and legacies of popular president-generals. Why did Americans use rituals from more than two millennia earlier to commemorate their own heroes? At one time scholars like Bernard Bailyn dismissed Classical influence in American political culture in the U.S as superficial window-dressing for elite display, but Caroline Winterer, Carl Richard, and other recent scholars have shown that Americans’ engagement with the Classical world was foundational to their conceptions of citizenship, patriotism, and the organization of the public sphere. Stephanie Lawton’s dissertation builds upon the emerging historiography by examining Classical elements in the funeral ceremonies for citizen-soldier presidents George Washington, AndrewJackson, Zachary Taylor, and Ulysses S. Grant. Drawing on insights from the Roman Imperial Cult, she argues that nineteenth-century Americans created their own classicized, presidential memorial cult to cultivate a unified, national identity and to define the ideal, republican citizen-soldier. In doing so, Americans also embedded rituals and values closely associated with Greco-Roman imperialism deep within their political culture. At this week’s OxEARS, we will be discussing her second chapter, titled “Praises to the Dead,” which employs evidence from over two hundred eulogies delivered after George Washington’s death in 1799 to show orators looked to Ancient Greece and Rome to derive the purpose, structure, and content appropriate for eulogies to a United States president. The chapter also challenges the dominance of Washington as an American Cincinnatus in the scholarly literature by showing that classical references in his eulogies were remarkably diverse in 1800 and that Americans could agree about what the ideal citizen was not far easier than what he should be.

This chapter also challenges the hegemony of the Cincinnatus image within Washington historiography by arguing that comparisons between Washington and ancient heroes was far more diverse in 1800 than often acknowledged.

Stephanie Lawton graduated summa cum laude from UCLA in 2013 and joined the University of Virginia’s Corcoran Department of History in 2014 as a student of Dr. Gary W. Gallagher. Her research combines the digital humanities and political, cultural, and intellectual history through the study of classical influence on United States political culture. Lawton has received several fellowships, including from the Gilder Lehrman Institute and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, and has presented her findings at the annual meetings of the Southern Historical Association and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.

Michaelmas 2019 Term Card

Welcome back to another academic year in Oxford, where the Early American Republic Seminar continues its mission to bring together an interdisciplinary network of scholars focused on the United States between Revolution and Reconstruction. Our autumn term card showcases works-in-progress from four historians at different stages of their careers and with wide-ranging interests, which we hope will appeal to a diverse audience. We begin with an Oxford-Virginia special: classical reception in early America, as Stephanie Lawton presents a snippet from her doctoral research on presidents, death, and classical rituals in the early United States. Our remaining three papers together present different angles on the ways in which persecuted and enslaved people of colour in the early republic navigated the extraordinary challenges they faced in a period of American history characterized by white supremacy, slaveholding, and repeated attempts at the ethnic cleansing of native peoples.

All of our events will be held in seminar room 1 at the Rothermere American Institute on South Parks Road in Oxford. PLEASE NOTE: due to a scheduling conflict, our Week 2 seminar with Jane Dinwoodie will begin at 4pm, not 5pm.


Week 1: Wednesday 16th October, 5pm

Stephanie Lawton (Virginia), ‘Praises to the Dead: Classical Influences in Eulogies for George Washington’

‘Tombs. Eulogies. Death Masks. Triumphal processions. One expects to encounter these words in a history of the ancient Greco-Roman world. But in the nineteenth-century, Americans performed similar rites to commemorate the lives and legacies of popular president-generals. Why did Americans use rituals from more than two millennia earlier to commemorate their own heroes?’ UVA PhD candidate Stephanie Lawton will discuss this question with reference to the celebration of George Washington’s life, and the commemoration of his death, at our first OxEARS of the new academic year.


Week 2: Wednesday 23rd October, 4pm (!)

Jane Dinwoodie (Cambridge), ‘Camouflage Tactics and Indian Non-Removal in the American South’

‘In 1830, the US Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. Statesmen envisaged a radical spatial solution that would cement American power in the South; in less than a decade, they proclaimed victory, having moved 65,000 Indigenous Southerners to Indian Territory. Two centuries later, historians stress its tragedy, but still see removal as a pivot that transformed Indigenous South into Cotton Kingdom. This paper tells a different story. From Appalachia down to the Gulf, members of the Five Tribes devised various means to resist deportation. One of the most effective – though least studied – was a strategy I call “camouflage tactics,” in which individuals made themselves illegible or invisible to outsiders. Camouflage encompassed a spectrum of action. By blurring their identity as removeable Indians, hundreds of Indigenous Southerners successfully avoided westward deportation. In doing so, they sustained an enduring Indigenous South, subverted US policymakers’ ambitions for a complete removal, and challenged American claims to sovereignty over the region in the decades beyond.’


Week 4: Wednesday 6th November, 5pm

Jessica Parr (Simmons College), ‘To Drink Samaria’s Flood: Tracing the Development of African-American Thought, 1760-1860’

Dr Parr joins us from Boston to discuss a new project on ‘the ways African-American thought developed in the early American republic in response to racial structures (political, legal, and religious) in the Anglo-Atlantic world. The aim is to engage meaningfully with the excellent recent scholarship on “freedom” and “unfreedom.”‘


Week 6: Wednesday 20th November, 5pm

James Mackay (Edinburgh), ‘”Refuge to Our Slaves”: Sites of Sanctuary for Refugees from Slavery in Revolutionary America’

‘My dissertation traces the movement, both voluntary and involuntary, of enslaved and freed people in the American Revolution. This paper is envisaged as part of my first chapter. I focus here on places of refuge for enslaved people in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia between 1775 and 1776. I seek to explore how enslaved and freed people envisioned the presence and purpose of British forces and how freedom-seeking people influenced British policy toward refugees. My project endeavours to recover the diversity of the experiences of refugees from slavery as they declared their independence.’

Week 7: Nicholas Cole, ‘The Quill Project and Mythbusting the Constitutional Convention’

Join us next Wednesday afternoon for our penultimate session of this academic year, where Nicholas Cole will demonstrate how we can use digital methods to disentangle some of the trickier historical controversies of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. With press coverage relating to the Convention reaching fever pitch since the election of Donald Trump, and questions about the origins of the electoral college, the emoluments clause, and other aspects of the Constitution a topic of hot debate, Dr Cole will offer new perspectives on the complex process by which the Constitution was drafted that summer in Philadelphia.

As usual, the seminar will meet on Wednesday (12th June) at 5pm in the downstairs seminar room at the Rothermere American Institute. All are welcome. N.B.: The paper will NOT be precirculated.

Dr Nicholas Cole is a Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford. He is a historian of politics and political thought, and is Director of the Quill Project, a digital project exploring the creation of constitutions, treaties, and legislation throughout history.

Week 6: Olga Akroyd, ‘Saints, Spies, Celibates: The Erotic Ambiguity of the Revolutionary Hero’

Join us next Wednesday, 5th June, at 5pm at the Rothermere American Institute to discuss Olga Akroyd’s paper on the literary figure of the American Revolutionary hero, with specific reference to the works of Herman Melville and James Fenimore Cooper.

“The iconography of the American revolutionary hero up to the present moment,” she writes, “has been conventionally regarded through a heterosexual prism, and frequently employed in discussions concerning the topic of white masculinity and celibacy. The aim of my paper, however, is to challenge this vision – discussing the presence and effect of queerness and sexual ambiguity on the portrayal of the fictional male heroes of the American Revolution.”

Olga Akroyd is a final-year PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Kent, working towards a thesis on the representation of the exceptionalist discourse in the novels of Herman Melville and F. Dostoevsky. Before coming to Kent, she studied at Queen Mary, University of London, and St Antony’s College, Oxford. Her research interests (in no particular order) include the antebellum era, presidential philosophy and the interplay of law and literature. Being bilingual in English and Russian, she also often works with the comparative aspects of American and Russian history and culture.

Week 3: L.K. Walters, ‘The Environmental Thought of Runaways from Slavery’

Join us at the Rothermere American Institute at 5pm on Wednesday 15th May to discuss Lindsey K. Walters’s chapter on the environmental thought of runaways from slavery. The paper will be pre-circulated: if you are not on the mailing list already and would like a copy of the paper, please send an email to grace.mallon@univ.ox.ac.uk

Lindsey K. Walters is a second year PhD candidate in American History at the University of Cambridge. Her dissertation is a social and intellectual history of enslaved people’s environmental thinking in the antebellum South. She previously completed an MPhil in American History at Cambridge and a BA in History and African American Studies at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Her first article was published in Slavery & Abolition in 2017, and is based on research completed during her undergraduate degree on universities’ efforts to come to terms with their historical institutional involvement in slavery.

Week 2: Claire Arcenas, ‘When Theory Fails in Practice: Learning from Locke’s Mistakes in Early America’

Our second seminar of the term takes place tomorrow, Wednesday 8th May, at 5pm in the downstairs seminar room at the Rothermere American Institute. Claire Arcenas, a Visiting Research Fellow at the RAI, will be presenting some of her research on the continuing influence of John Locke’s thought in American intellectual life after the Revolution. This week’s talk will focus specifically on how Americans contrasted Locke with the Federalist Papers of John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.

Claire Arcenas is an assistant professor of American history at the University of Montana. She holds a PhD (2016) from Stanford University, where she was a Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. At present, she is at work on a book about the changing influence of the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) on American intellectual life over the last three hundred years. Her research has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, the Huntington Library, and the Harry Ransom Center.