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American History

The History Department’s staffing and resources are strong in American history. Current American history faculty include Robert Bland in African-American, southern, and Reconstruction history, Kristen Block in slavery and the Atlantic World, Ernest Freeberg in nineteenth and twentieth century cultural history, Luke Harlow in the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras, the U.S. South, and in religion, Susan Lawrence in the history of medicine, Christopher Magra in early America and the Atlantic World, Robert J. Norrell in southern history and race relations, Tore Olsson in twentieth-century U.S., southern, transnational, and agrarian history, Brandon Winford in African-American and civil rights history, and Michael Woods in nineteenth-century political and cultural history.

Current and recent doctoral dissertations include such topics as the origins of American religious camp meetings, tea and global cultural transfer in early America, Jacksonian political culture and patronage networks, the production and consumption of cut flowers across the twentieth-century Americas, American missionaries and empire in nineteenth- and early-twentieth century Japan and Okinawa, and radical counter-geographies in early Arkansas. Our graduate students have a strong record of winning external fellowships to facilitate their research. In recent years, students have won funding from the Social Science Research Council, the American Philosophical Society, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, among others. Many have also been successful in securing year-long writing fellowships from the UT Humanities Center.

The department hosts both The Papers of Andrew Jacksona major historical editing project—and the Center for the Study of War and Society, which conducts an active program of scholarship and public education. Campus library resources are particularly strong, including original manuscript collections, extensive monographic and microfilm holdings, and full access to searchable electronic archives such as Early American Imprints, the American Periodicals Series, the US Serial Set, Sabin Americana, Readex’s Early American Newspapers, and Cengage’s Nineteenth-Century US Newspapers. UT is one of only a few institutions in the country to have acquired all these databases.

Students in the program produce publishable scholarship both before and after earning their degrees.  Recent student publications include articles in Civil War History by William Hardy and in The Journal of East Tennessee History by Jason Mead and Jason Yeatts.

Recent books by History Department faculty include:

  • Ernest Freeberg, A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement (Basic Books, 2020)
  • Brandon Winford, John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights (University Press of Kentucky, 2020)
  • Michael Woods, Arguing until Doomsday: Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy (University of North Carolina Press, 2020)
  • Tore Olsson, Agrarian Crossings: Reformers and the Remaking of the US and Mexican Countryside (Princeton University Press, 2017)
  • William Mercer, Diminishing the Bill of Rights: Barron v. Baltimore and the Foundations of American Liberty (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017)
  • Michael Cohen, editor, Correspondence of James K. Polk, vol. 13, August 1847–March 1848. (UT Press, 2017)
  • Susan Lawrence, Privacy and the Past: Research, Law, Archives, Ethics (Rutgers University Press, 2016)
  • Christopher Magra, Poseidon’s Curse: British Naval Impressment and Atlantic Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2016)
  • Daniel Feller et al., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume X: 1832 (UT Press, 2016)
  • Robert J. Norrell, Alex Haley: And the Books That Changed a Nation (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)
  • Luke Harlow, Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880 (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • T.R.C. Hutton, Bloody Breathitt: Politics and Violence in the Appalachian South (University of Kentucky Press, 2013)
  • Kristen Block, Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean: Religion, Colonial Competition, and the Politics of Profit (University of Georgia Press, 2012)
  • Lynn Sacco, Unspeakable: Father-Daughter Incest in American History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009)

Books by recent department graduates include:

  • William K. Bolt, Tariff Wars and the Politics of Jacksonian America (Vanderbilt University Press, 2017)
  • S. Jonathan Bass, He Calls Me by Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty (Liveright, 2017)
  • Kent T. Dollar et al., Border Wars: The Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky (Kent State Univ. Press, 2015)
  • Steve Ash, UT Emeritus Professor, A Massacre in Memphis: The Race Riot That Shook the Nation One Year After the Civil War (Hill & Wang, 2013)
  • John Kvach, De Bow’s Review: the Antebellum Vision of a New South (University Press of Kentucky, 2013)
  • John D. Fowler et al., Breaking the Heartland: The Civil War in Georgia (Mercer University Press, 2011)
  • F. Suzanne Bowers, Republican, first last and always: a biography of B. Carroll Reece (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2010)
  • Victoria E. Ott, Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age During the Civil War (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008)
  • John C. Pineiro, Manifest Ambition: James K. Polk and Civil-Military Relations during the Mexican War (Westport: Praeger, 2007)
  • Ben H. Severance, Tennessee’s Radical Army: The State Guard and its Role in Reconstruction (UT Press, 2005)
  • Vicki Rozema, Footsteps of the Cherokees: A Guide to the Eastern Homelands of the Cherokee Nation (John F. Blair, 2007)
  • Nineteenth-Century America: Essays in Honor of Paul H. Bergeron (2005), containing chapters by seven UT PhDs
  • John D. Fowler, Mountaineers in Gray (University of Tennessee Press, 2004)