UCU Strikes, February-March 2020

Due to the upcoming industrial action scheduled for Wednesday 26th February and Wednesday 11th March, we have decided to cancel the Week 6 and Week 8 seminars which were due to take place on those dates. We will publish a new term card in April and hope to see you all at our Trinity Term events.

Week 4: Kariann Yokota, ‘A “proper theatre for exertion”: U.S. forays into the trans-Pacific world in the early American republic’

Join us on Wednesday 12th February at 4.15pm for our next OxEARS session, where RAI Visiting Fellow Dr Kariann Akemi Yokota will be joining us to present new 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 afterwards. All are welcome!

N.B. This will be a conference-style presentation, and there will be no pre-circulated paper.


Kariann Akemi Yokota received her Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles and served as Assistant Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University before coming to the University of Colorado Denver. Yokota is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Unbecoming British, among other publications on topics of immigration and ethnicity.

Week 2: Benjamin Schneider, ‘Technological Change and Work: The Transformation of American Transport, 1750-1860’

Join us on Wednesday 29th January at 4.15pm for the first OxEARS of Hilary Term, where Benjamin Schneider will be joining us to present part of his doctoral 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 afterwards. All are welcome!

N.B. This will be a conference-style presentation, and there will be no pre-circulated paper.


This paper examines the impact of technological change on work in a dynamic sector of the early American economy. Interurban transport in the Northeastern United States was transformed by institutional and technical changes over the period 1750– 1860 as poorly-maintained municipal roads were replaced by turnpikes, canals, and finally railroads. The paper describes and measures the ways that conditions and work opportunities for transport employees were changed by the key inventions of the period. It uses quantitative and qualitative evidence from company and government records and an index that measures changes in the quality of work— whether occupations were good jobs—to determine how new technology affected this aspect of living standards. The job-level analysis is complemented by figures on the range of occupations available within firms and sector-level data on the change in total employment opportunities in transport.

‘The evidence from this multilayered approach suggests that the creation of increasingly large and sophisticated transport systems produced a greater division of labor, which resulted in rising inequality of living standards when viewed from an occupational quality perspective. Municipal roads in the 18th century were built and maintained by unskilled laborers, with occasional stints by skilled craftsmen. By the mid-19th century, large waterway systems such as the Erie Canal and trunk routes like the Pennsylvania Railroad required a wide variety of specialized workers, ranging from brakemen and lock-tenders to draftsmen and foremen. Opportunities for skilled workers increased, while the share of unskilled laborers fell. Many of the new jobs created, such as clerks and superintendents, were in higher-quality occupations that had safer working conditions and higher remuneration. Even so, the growth of the American economy, supported by improved transport, meant that the sector grew substantially. While workers’ fortunes diverged, this example of technological change did not produce significant technological unemployment.


Benjamin Schneider is a DPhil candidate in Economic and Social History at Merton College, Oxford. He has a BA in History & Government from Cornell University and an MSc in Economic and Social History from Oxford. His research focuses on work, labor markets, and living standards in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hilary 2020 Term Card

Happy New Year, and welcome back to the Oxford Early American Republic Seminar, where we’re beginning 2020 with a diverse array of projects exploring the first century of U.S. history from a range of angles. Economic historian Ben Schneider will start us off with an overview of the transport revolution that transformed life in the early republic between the Revolution and the Civil War. We’re also excited to welcome RAI Visiting Fellow Kariann Yokota, author of Unbecoming British (Oxford University Press, 2011), who will be discussing her recent work. Oxford’s own Nicholas Cole joins us in Week 6 to discuss the hot constitutional topic du jour, impeachment, in historical context, and Lawrence Hatter rounds off the term with an ‘indigenous history of the U.S.-Canadian border.’

Thanks to feedback from our audiences and contributors, we’ve decided to make a small change to our regular scheduling this term. Instead of meeting at 5pm, as we have been accustomed to do in the past, we’ll be kicking off at 4.15pm on a Wednesday afternoon every other week. All of our events will be held in seminar room 1 at the Rothermere American Institute on South Parks Road in Oxford.

Some papers may be precirculated: to receive a copy in advance, and to hear other news, join our mailing list by emailing grace.mallon@univ.ox.ac.uk or stephen.symchych@sant.ox.ac.uk.


Week 2: Wednesday 29th January, 4.15pm

Benjamin Schneider (Oxford), ‘Technological Change and Work: The Transformation of American Transport, 1750-1860’

Benjamin Schneider is a DPhil candidate in Economic and Social History at Merton College, Oxford. He has a BA in History & Government from Cornell University and an MSc in Economic and Social History from Oxford. His research focuses on work, labor markets, and living standards in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Week 4: Wednesday 12th February, 4.15pm

Kariann Yokota (Colorado), title TBC

Dr. Yokota received her Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles and served as Assistant Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University before coming to the University of Colorado Denver. Yokota is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Unbecoming British, among other publications on topics of immigration and ethnicity.


Week 6: Wednesday 26th February, 4.15pm

Nicholas Cole (Oxford), ‘Impeachment at the Founding’

Dr Cole is a Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford, and director of the Quill Project, a digital project exploring the creation of constitutions and other negotiated texts through formal parliamentary processes. 


Week 8: Wednesday 11th March, 4.15pm

Lawrence Hatter (Washington State), ‘The Past Isn’t Past: An Indigenous History of the U.S.-Canadian Border’

Dr Hatter received his PhD from the University of Virginia in 2011, and is the author of Citizens of Convenience: The Imperial Origins of American Nationhood on the U.S.-Canadian Border (University of Virginia Press, 2016).

Week 6: James Mackay, ‘”Refuge to our Slaves”: Sites of Sanctuary for Refugees from Slavery in Revolutionary America’

Join us on Wednesday 20th November at 5pm for the third OxEARS of Michaelmas Term, where James Mackay will be joining us to present part of his doctoral 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!


‘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 1775-1776. I seek to explore how enslaved and freed people envisioned the presence and purpose of British forces and how the 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. In Virginia, I explore enslaved people’s flight to freedom both before and after Lord Dunmore’s proclamation in November 1775. I assess the extent to which the proclamation changed the pattern of flight and how enslaved people’s actions prior to the proclamation motivated Dunmore. I build on scholarship that has looked at how enslaved people interpreted the proclamation and imbued it with an altogether different meaning from its author’s original intent. The flight of women, men, and children made Dunmore’s ‘‘Floating Town’’ and Gwynn’s Island on the Chesapeake sites of sanctuary. Although Virginia was the only colony where a British governor issued a formal document of emancipation through enlistment, enslaved people’s flight meant the result for enslavers in the Carolinas and Georgia was not dissimilar. Enslaved people drew upon their previous experiences of navigating terrain and waterways to similarly turn Fort Johnston on the banks of the Cape Fear, Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charlestown harbour and Tybee Island off Savannah into places of refuge. By drawing upon the pioneering scholarship on enslaved people in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War and employing the methodologies used in work on slavery in the Atlantic world, I seek to make visible the black refugee experience.’


James Mackay is a second-year PhD candidate in History at the University of Edinburgh, researching refugees from slavery in revolutionary America. He holds a BA in History and Spanish from Oxford and an MSc in American History from Edinburgh. His work has been supported by fellowships from the University of South Carolina and the North Caroliniana Society. For 2019/20, he been awarded research fellowships at Colonial Williamsburg and the International Center for Jefferson Studies.