As a historian, I specialize in Early American and Atlantic World History, with a focus on eighteenth-century material culture. Since 2016, I have been Assistant Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware. From 2010 to 2016, I was Assistant Professor of History at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. I received my PhD in the History of American Civilization at the University of Delaware in 2009, where my dissertation won the prize for Best Dissertation in the Humanities. In 2011, it also won the University of Pennsylvania’s Zuckerman Prize, a national award for the Best Dissertation in American Studies.
From 2009 to 2010, I was the Patrick Henry Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins University. In 2013-14, I was a Mellon Fellow in the Center for the Humanities at CUNY's Graduate Center, and I spent 2014-15 as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in one of my favorite archival repositories, the New-York Historical Society. In fall 2016, I joined the faculty of the University of Delaware. I am a member of the Departments of History and Art History, and at work on my new research project on the American Revolution.
My love of history, fittingly, has its roots in my own past. When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me tales of our eighteenth-century ancestors, of Moravian missionaries (women and men) and soldiers in the American Revolution. I loved wandering among their graves with her, wondering about the lives of people long dead and buried. As a teenager, I often went to World War II reunions with her and my grandfather, who was a pilot in the Pacific. I listened with rapt attention as the men reminisced. But at some point, there always came a time when “women and children” like me were asked to leave the room. The veterans were about to discuss POWs, and death marches, and bombs, and other things too terrible, in their protective view, for our ears. This part I found frustrating. I wanted to hear all the stories the men told behind closed doors.
When a Morehead scholarship took me to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I indulged my love of the past by majoring in History. But I also love books and poems, and so I double majored in Comparative Literature. Both fields of study called to me, but at some point it hit me: even the greatest writers can't make up more fascinating stories than what actually happened in the past. I realized that if I were a historian, I could use archives and museum collections to dig up the stories buried in those eighteenth-century graveyards, and to listen to those veterans' conversations behind closed doors. I could reveal hidden histories.
My first book, based on my dissertation, is Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World (Yale University Press, 2016). As its subtitle broadly hints, it taps into my long held wish to uncover-and share-hidden stories about the past.