Early American/Colonial History

Early American history at the University of Illinois explores America's place in a transatlantic, multicultural Atlantic world. British, French, and Spanish colonization in continental North America and the Caribbean brought European, Native American, and African cultures into constant conflict and interaction. Regular graduate courses in this field explore early America from this transatlantic perspective as a dynamic early modern place rather than as a prelude to later United States history.  Our faculty in early American and related areas of history possess particular interests in themes of race and slavery, indigeneous peoples, environment, borderlands, disease and medicine, law, interdisciplinary approaches (including digital history), and material and cultural histories.  Graduate students in early American and Atlantic histories at Illinois can make great use of our extraordinary library collections, our thriving reading groups such as those in “pre-modern world histories” and “British empire,” as well as partnerships and collaborations with the Newberry Library in Chicago, one of North America’s great centers for early American studies.

Relevant Faculty

Robert Morrissey, (Ph.D. Yale, 2006) specializes in the frontiers and borderlands of colonial North America, particularly the French colonies and Native communities of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley in the 17th and 18th centuries. He also focuses on the environmental history of the Atlantic World, indigenous peoples, and the theme of empire.  Broadly interested in interdisciplinary approaches, he is embarked on a large-scale digital humanities project focused on the Jesuit Relations

Ikuko Asaka (Ph.D. Wisconsin-Madison, 2010) studies race, migration and diaspora in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Atlantic World and United States. She is writing a book on geographies of black freedom in the Atlantic.

Rana Hogarth (Ph.D. Yale, 2012) studies African American history and the history of science and medicine in the early Modern Atlantic world, particularly in the slave colonies of Jamaica and South Carolina. Her academic interests include the role of medicine in shaping perceptions of race in early America.

Richard Ross, (J.D. and Ph.D. Yale, 1998) Professor of Law and History, specializes in the legal history of the United States and early modern England and in the history of colonial British America. He teaches a survey course in American legal history and upper level seminars on legal pluralism and legal communication in the colonial world.He also directs the long-running Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History, hosted regularly at the Newberry in Chicago.

Trish Loughran, (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2000) Associate Professor of English and History, teaches and writes about the cultural history of early America. She offers seminars on the history of U.S. print culture and on American nationalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her seminars engage a wide array of sources, from fiction and memoirs to political documents, speeches and the popular press.

Craig Koslofsky (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1994) is a cultural historian of early modern Europe whose recent work has taken an Atlantic focus.  His current projects are a cultural history of skin in the early modern Atlantic, and an edition of an important manuscript—Johann Peter Oettinger’s account of travel in Germany, the Netherlands, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Other faculty members in the department who specialize in complementary and related fields include Antoinette Burton (Ph.D. Chicago, 1990) (British empire), Clare Crowston (Ph.D. Cornell, 1996) (early modern France), Mauro Nobili (Ph.D. University of Naples "L'Orientale", African Studies, 2008) (West Africa, including early Modern), Claudia Brosseder (Ph.D. Munich University, Habilitation: Munich University) (colonial Latin America and indigenous peoples), and Dana Rabin (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1996) (Eighteenth-century British and legal history).

The University's library boasts one of the most extensive collections of any research library in the country, and its holdings in American history, particularly in newspapers and early modern rare books published in Britain and America, make it an ideal resource for graduate students embarking on major research projects.