- American Civil War
- Slavery in the United States
- Parties and Elections in US history
My principal area of research explores the relationship between ideas and political behaviour. My aim in recent books and articles has been to offer an analysis of political change grounded in how ‘ordinary’ people in the nineteenth century experienced and understood their world. My first book, No Party Now (Oxford University Press, 2006), analysed the tensions between wartime pressure for conformity and the practice of electoral politics. In 2017, the University of North Carolina Press published The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics, 1846-1865, (2017). This book won the Jefferson Davis Prize, awarded by the American Civil War museum in Richmond for the best book on the Civil War era, and was a finalist for the Lincoln prize for the best book on Lincoln or the Civil War soldier, awarded by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History. It offers a new view of the northern path to war, focusing on the mass of northern voters who self-defined as ‘conservatives’ and whose shifting responses to the unfolding political crises shaped events more than is usually appreciated.
Another strand of my research focuses on the study of the image of the United States around the world. On this theme my most recent publication is an article about the ‘cult’ of Abraham Lincoln in interwar Britain, which appeared in the journal Twentieth Century British History. I am currently completing a book for OUP on the battle of Gettysburg in history and memory which, among other things, situates the meanings of that great battle in a transnational context. I also have academic interests in the history of theatre and in transatlantic liberalism and conservatism in the nineteenth century.