Jason Opal is Professor of History in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University. He is broadly interested in early America, the American Revolution and early United States, and the history of capitalism, slavery, colonialism, and infectious diseases.
Opal did his undergraduate work at Cornell and his doctoral studies at Brandeis, where he worked with historians such as Jane Kamensky, David Hackett Fischer, and James T. Kloppenberg. His first major project was on the cultural transformation of ambition in the post-Revolutionary New England countryside. It resulted in a 2004 Journal of American History article that won the Organization of American Historians’ Binkley-Stephenson Award and in a 2008 book, Beyond the Farm: National Ambitions in Rural New England, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. His second book project focused on the southern borderlands of the American Revolution and on the rise of Andrew Jackson as the leader of an American national concept rooted in a particular view of both civilization and violence. Supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, this project culminated in the 2017 book, Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation by Oxford University Press. This book was selected by the History Book Club and the Military Book Club in the United States and as one of the "summer's best books" by The Times of London. His other writings have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Walrus, Salon, and Jacobin.
At McGill, Opal teaches surveys of the early United States and the American Revolution as well as more specialized courses on the history of slavery, U.S. foreign relations, democracy, and epidemics. He is now writing a global history of Barbados.