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Max Matherne

Doctoral Candidate: The University of Tennessee, 2016
M.A. History: The University of Tennessee, 2015
B.A. History: Grove City College, 2012.

Field of Study: Early American Republic

Research Interests: Political Cultures; History of Revolutions; Transatlantic Intellectual History; Jacksonian Democracy; Capitalism and Political Economy

Dissertation Title (Working): The Jacksonian Character: Patronage and Ideology in the Early American Republic

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Biography: I earned my BA in History from Grove City College in 2012, before coming to the University of Tennessee in 2013 to work with Dr. Daniel Feller. I am a PhD Candidate in 19th-Century American History, with a special interest in the history of American political thought. My dissertation, “The Jacksonian Character,” examines the seemingly mundane issue of political appointments and its significance for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century republican thought. I do this by situating Andrew Jackson’s political supporters in an intellectual longue dureé spanning both hemispheres of the Enlightenment-era Atlantic. Eighteenth-century  republican discourse depicted corrupt officeholders and their “aristocratic” masters as the greatest threats to political liberty. Between the Revolution and 1828, Americans crafted a theory of history that reified moral distinctions between the virtuous, independent “people” and the imagined sub-sects of conspiring “aristocrats” and supplicant “courtiers” who wielded power through government patronage. The first task of the Jackson administration was to extirpate any aristocratic fifth columns in their midst; they carried out this inquisitorial agenda with a ruthless purge of the Federal Civil Service. Jacksonian Democrats did not originally unite around matters of fiscal policy or white supremacy, then, but around an old and venerable “anti-establishment” republican tradition.

I am currently working with Dr. Ernest Freeberg on an oral history project chronicling the history of UT’s fight to maintain intellectual freedom, and organizing two spring symposiums for students and faculty members to relate their research to contemporary politics. I have given invited lectures on academic freedom, the continuing relevance of Jacksonian democracy, and Cold War-era American identity. During my time at the University of Tennessee, I have worked as a Research Assistant at the Papers of Andrew Jackson project, where I transcribed letters and summarized documents for forthcoming volumes.  I have also served as a TA for numerous courses, including American History since 1877, World Civilization since 1500, and both halves of the Western Civilization survey class.