An OxEARS Conversation: The American Nineteenth Century and Legacies of White Supremacy

In response to the widespread protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, we at OxEARS have decided, with the support of the Rothermere American Institute, to add an event to our term card. Though the event has been organized at very short notice and will thus take on a somewhat informal character, ‘An OxEARS Conversation’ will do what the seminar does best: give our network of historians of the early republic a space to discuss the work they do and to learn from each other.

In a slight change from our usual programming, we the organizers have specially invited three former speakers to present a panel on different aspects of the historical context surrounding white supremacy, racism, and Black lives in the United States. The historians we have invited will provide a diverse array of historical and personal perspectives on this era-defining moment of protest.

  • Kariann Akemi Yokota is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Denver. She is the author of Unbecoming British, among other publications on the topics of immigration and ethnicity.
  • Adam McNeil is a PhD student at Rutgers University, where he is writing about the experiences of Black fugitive women during the eighteenth century and specifically the American Revolutionary era. Adam is also a regular contributor to the academic blogs Black Perspectives and The Junto, and plays a major role in interviewing scholars and writers for New Books in African American Studies.
  • Nicholas Cole is a Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College and director of the Quill Project. His work encompasses classical reception, law, and constitutionalism in the revolutionary and early national United States.

The panel will be followed by a Q&A session.

We hope you will join us at 4.30pm on Wednesday 10th June via Zoom. Details will reach you over the mailing list in advance of the session.

Trinity 2020 Term Card

Seminars may be the last thing on our minds at the moment, but we have decided to run OxEARS remotely this term as an opportunity to learn, share, and keep in touch with recent developments in our field despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. We hope our friends and colleagues around the world will consider joining us every other Wednesday at 4.30pm BST to hear from our fantastic speakers, whose dates, topics, and biographies are laid out below. We are very pleased to have been able to reschedule Lawrence Hatter (Washington State) and Nicholas Cole (Oxford), whose sessions were cancelled last term due to the strike action, alongside Alys Beverton, who joins us from Oxford Brookes to talk about Confederate foreign policy, and Kelly Sharp (Luther College), who is presenting research from her book project on food, race, and labour in antebellum Charleston.

The link to join the seminar will be sent out via our mailing list on the day of the meeting. If you are not yet signed up, please email

Week 2: Wednesday 6th May, 4.30pm

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 4: Wednesday 20th May, 4.30pm

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 6: Wednesday 3rd June, 4.30pm

Alys Beverton (Oxford Brookes), ‘”Damn The Yankee Imperialists”: Reconsidering Confederates’ Hemispheric Visions during the U.S. Civil War’

Dr Beverton recently received her PhD from University College London, where she wrote about the relationship between the United States and Mexico during and after the American Civil War. She is now a lecturer at Oxford Brookes University.

Week 8: Wednesday 17th June, 4.30pm

Kelly Sharp (Luther College), ‘Bowls and the Meaning of Race: Dining in Antebellum Charleston’

Dr Sharp is assistant professor of Africana Studies and History at Luther College. Her manuscript, under contract with Cambridge University Press, is tentatively titled Provisioning Charleston: Food, Race, and Labor in the Antebellum Lowcountry. She has an article forthcoming in Agricultural History (summer 2020) on African-American contributions to the Lowcountry’s postbellum truck farming industry.

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.