I was born and raised in Salina, Kansas, a town near the geographic center of the contiguous United States. I read History and English at the University of Kansas. I first came to Oxford on an undergraduate study abroad year and was immediately drawn to the tutorial system. I was fortunate to return to Britain as a post-graduate Marshall Scholar at Worcester College, Oxford. After finishing a D.Phil. in modern history, I went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge on a Junior Research Fellowship, before assuming my present post as University Lecturer in American History and Tutorial Fellow in History at Corpus Christi College.
My principal research focuses on nineteenth century American history. From the perspective of the twenty-first century, the rise of the United States appears natural and inevitable. Yet there was nothing pre-ordained about the consolidation of the American Union, nor the establishment of the American empire. I am interested in why this group of former British colonies bound together and how their fragile union survived fundamental ideological and political disputes, such as those unleashed by the entrenchment of slavery in the Southern states. Most of my research has focused on nineteenth century US foreign relations and Americans' paradoxical relationship with empire. As Americans struggled to free themselves from their colonial past, they constructed their own empire, engaged in their own conquests, and exercised effective control over other peoples. My work connects the United States' foreign relations with its project of nation-building at home.
In addition to the above, I have secondary research interests in the American Civil War, international finance and economics in the nineteenth century, Anglo-American relations, and US cultural expansion.
I supervise post-graduate researchers working on America in the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the American Civil War, and US economic development.