I study colonial North America, the United States between the American Revolution and the Civil War, the 18th- and 19th-century Atlantic world, and Native American history.
I am currently working on a book on Albert Gallatin (1761-1849), a man best known for his criticisms of Alexander Hamilton and his subsequent role under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as the longest serving Treasury Secretary in U.S. history. My book manuscript uses his long, varied life and career—youth in Geneva, business enterprises in North American borderlands, legislator in Pennsylvania and in Congress, Treasury secretary in Washinton, diplomat at Ghent, Paris, London, and elsewhere, president of a bank and two learned societies in New York City—to explore the development of a democratic political economy in the United States. For Gallatin, it was premised on dispossession of Indigenous people and geared toward creating and increasing capital, and extending its circulation, heedless of the resulting distribution. This process focused on the expropriation and development of North American resources, but always within patterns of transatlantic trade, investment, conflict, and negotiation.
My first book, Native Tongues: Colonialism and Race from Encounter to the Reservation, examined intercultural communication between Natives and Euro-Americans and how these gave rise to theories about Native languages and the clues they were thought to hold about the ancestry and social development of peoples. I argue that those ideas informed the administration of U.S. colonialism, guiding efforts to understand and simplify Native diversity on the one hand, and justifying the elimination of Native languages on the other. I also argue that genealogical and psychological ideas became fused for much of the 19th century in a conception of race that transcended mere physical appearance.
At Seton Hall I teach courses on Colonial America; Revolutionary America; Democracy, Slavery, and Manifest Destiny; and Native American History before Removal. I also teach both halves of the American history survey as well as departmental seminars for the major.
I am also a member of the Editorial Board of Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life (http://commonplace.online/), the Advisory Council of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and the Revolution NJ Scholarly and Public Programs Working Group.
- Ph.D., College of William and Mary
- M.A. College of William and Mary
- B.A. Villanova University
Native Tongues: Colonialism and Race from Encounter to the Reservation. Harvard University Press, January 2015.
- “‘Tools of Foreign Influence’: Albert Gallatin, Geneva, and Federalist Nativism before the Alien and Sedition Acts,” Journal of the Early Republic 41.4 (Winter 2021), forthcoming
- “Native Views of Native Languages: Communication and Kinship in Eastern North America, c. 1800-1830,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 75.4 (October 2018), 651-684
- "Colonial Indigenous Language Encounters in the Americas and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World," Early American Studies 15.3 (Summer 2017): 442-473 (co-authored with Sarah Rivett).
- "Ideas of Race in Early America" (14,000 words), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, gen. ed. Jon Butler, April 2016.
- "An Eighteenth-Century Linguistic Borderland," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 136.4 (Oct. 2012): 495-498.
- "'Must not their languages be savage and barbarous like them?': Philology, Indian Removal, and Race Science," Journal of the Early Republic 30.4 (Winter 2010): 506-532.
- “The Apprentice’s New World,” Uncommon Sense—the Blog (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture), at, posted Oct. 31, 2018
- “Whose Misfortune?: Malheur and America’s History of Regional and Racial Conflict,” on Past is Present: The Seton Hall University History Department Blog, at, posted April 6, 2016
- Residential Fellowship, Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, March 2019
- Program in Early American Economy and Society Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia, May 2018
(please substitute this date for the "forthcoming" currently under this entry)
- Program in Early American Economy and Society Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia, forthcoming.
- Robert L. Middlekauf Fellowship, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, June 2017.
- Helen Watson Buckner Memorial Fellowship, John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI, May-June 2016.
- National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA, 2010-2011.
OTHER HONORS AND AWARDS
- Researcher of the Year, Seton Hall University College of Arts & Sciences, 2014-15.
- Finalist, Seton Hall University College of Arts & Sciences Professor of the Year, 2013-14.
- Ralph D. Gray Article Prize, Society for the Historians of the Early American Republic, July 2011.