Call for Papers: Michaelmas Term, 2019 (and following)

The Oxford Early American Republic Seminar offers the opportunity for junior researchers to share and discuss their work on the United States between 1776 and 1865. The seminar would like to invite graduate students and early career researchers working in the United Kingdom to present at our 2019 meetings.

Following the example of the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford, where the seminar is based, we aim to promote an interdisciplinary approach to American studies. We therefore welcome submissions from disciplines across the humanities and social sciences including – but not limited to – history, geography, literature, political science, and economics.

It is expected that most sessions will involve discussion of projects that are currently in-progress. Presenters may pre-circulate a paper for an in-depth workshop-style session, or give a conference-style presentation on their research. We hold four meetings per term, always on a Wednesday afternoon at 5pm. Dates of term, 2019-20, are:

Michaelmas Term: Sunday 13 October – Saturday 7 December

Hilary Term: Sunday 19 January – Saturday 14 March

Trinity Term: Sunday 26 April – Saturday 20 June

Thanks to generous funding from the Rothermere American Institute, the seminar is able to reimburse presenters for travel within the UK if necessary, and to invite them to dinner after the session.

All submissions should make their way to us by Saturday 7 September 2019 to be considered for this year’s seminar series. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, a 100-word biography, preferred dates, and a preference to present or pre-circulate, to   or


One Year of OxEARS

Towards the end of our first year as doctoral students at Oxford in the summer of 2018, we were feeling a little lost. Most of our classmates doing DPhils at the Rothermere American Institute were working on 20th-century American history, and we were envious of the intellectual community that they had been able to build at the Institute. While organisations like BrANCH and BGEAH offered occasional opportunities for us to get together with other students of the early republic, we wanted to create a space where we could meet up more regularly with other historians working in our field, discuss their work, and learn from their intellectual and professional experience. Out of this desire, and with the generous support of the RAI Academic Programme Fund, the Oxford Early American Republic Seminar was born.

The enthusiastic response with which the seminar has been received since its founding has testified to the need for this new space among historians of the early republic in the UK. Over the course of this year, we welcomed speakers not just from the Oxford community, but also from Kent, Reading, Cambridge, and the Institute for Historical Research in London. Historians in Italy and France responded to our calls for papers, and American presenters joined us from the University of Delaware and Yale. We were also able to feature scholars visiting Oxford from the University of Montana and Ave Maria University.

As per our original mission, we focused on PhD students and other junior scholars, including several engaged in the process of preparing their first book for publication. We have also heard presentations from more established scholars, including a retrospective on the Missouri Crisis with Donald Ratcliffe, and a detailed look at slavery and the Constitutional Convention with Nicholas Cole. One of the goals of the seminar is to build on the Rothermere’s interdisciplinary approach to the study of the United States, and we were able to celebrate methodological diversity in the study of the early republic, featuring scholars working in American literature, the new history of capitalism, and digital humanities. In the midst of all this variety, we were grateful for the enthusiastic core audience of regulars who attended nearly every session.

The Rothermere American Institute has generously funded a second year for OxEARS, and we are hopeful that we might be able to establish the seminar as a regular part of the RAI calendar from 2019 onwards. Our next call for papers is coming soon, and we look forward to hearing from—and seeing—all of you again next year.

Once again, for all that has happened, and what is to come, we thank everyone for their effort. Creating and convening this seminar has been a great pleasure and source of satisfaction, and we look forward to another year.

With gratitude,

Grace and Stephen

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 4: Michael Breidenbach, “Sovereign Jealousies: The Quebec Act, Declaration of Independence, and Immigration in the New Republic”

Please join us on Wednesday 22nd May at 5pm at the Rothermere Institute to discuss Michael Breidenbach’s paper on the Quebec Act of 1774, tensions between civil authority and religious liberty, and dialogue among revolutionary Americans and with their neighbors in Canada.

Abstract: During the Revolutionary era, American patriots argued that Parliament’s claim to sovereignty over the American colonies constituted imperium in imperio, a state within a state. While historians have recognized that sovereignty was the main issue over which the American Revolution was fought, previous focus on the debates about Parliament and colonial sovereignty has neglected the original instance of imperium in imperio: the conflict between civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. This conflict pervaded revolutionary discourse, especially against Catholics after the Quebec Act of 1774. At the crux of anti-Catholicism was the widely shared fear of ecclesiastical tyranny over civil liberties and against temporal sovereignty—what Samuel Adams called Catholicism’s imperium in imperio. Although many Americans acknowledged religious liberty as a natural right, they held a prior assumption that those who enjoyed the protection of such liberty must owe allegiance to one temporal sovereign only. This paper argues that Catholics were able to answer these challenges and obtain religious liberty using conciliarist assumptions about the juridical separation of papal and temporal power. Their denial of the pope’s temporal power was not only about ecclesiastical governance, but also about state sovereignty: a country should be independent of any foreign power, be it the pope or another civil ruler. This paper illustrates how Catholics made these arguments in their congressional commission to obtain Canadian support for the revolutionary cause and their signing of the Declaration of Independence, and how American founders in turn justified Catholic citizenship with the first immigration laws in the United States.

This paper will be pre-circulated.  If you are not on our mailing list but would like to receive a copy, please send an e-mail to Co-Convenors and

Michael Breidenbach is a Visiting Scholar at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Assistant Professor of History at Ave Maria University. His research interests concern the history of political, legal, and religious thought in the Atlantic World. His book manuscript, The Pope’s Republic: Liberties and Loyalties in Early America, is a history of religious liberty and church-state relations in early America. His recent work has been published in the William and Mary Quarterly, and he is co-editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty. He received his Ph.D. from King’s College, Cambridge, and was previously a visiting fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford.



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

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.