Professor of History
My work on the nineteenth century focuses on slavery, capitalism, and, increasingly, imperialism. My book, Soul by Soul, used the slave market as a way into the fantasies, fears, negotiations, and violence that characterized American slavery. Since the book, my work has followed two courses. On the one hand, I have written a series of essays about social and historical theory: on notions of time in American slavery; on the idea of "agency" as the organizing theme of scholarship on slavery; on theories of capitalism and slavery; and on the idea of reparations for slavery as a historical narrative. On the other, I have been working on a history of the Mississippi Valley between the Louisiana Purchase and the Civil War entitled River of Dark Dreams: Slavery, Capitalism, and Imperialism in the Mississippi Valley. Without giving up the focus on the immediate experience of slavery and mastery upon which I focused in Soul by Soul, this book will embed the history of slavery in the U.S. in the histories of global capitalism (especially the cotton trade and the Atlantic money market) and U.S. imperialism (the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican War, and the illegal invasions of Cuba and Nicaragua in the 1850s).
Position: Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies
Field: United States
Specialty:Nineteenth-century U.S., slavery, capitalism, imperialism; social and historical theory
Spring 2013: Leave
Center for Government and International Studies-South Building
1730 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138