New Kent Library Resource: Colonial America

The School of History, Centre for American Studies, Library Services, and Development Office are delighted to share news of the availability of a wonderful new resource for our students and researchers. Courtesy of the generosity of the Christine and Ian Bolt fund, which has for a long time supported Kent students’ study of Americanist archives and subjects, we have become the first university in the UK to gain access to the full suite of digital resources hosted by Adam Matthew, titled Colonial America, which comprises over 1,450 volumes of Colonial Office papers from the UK National Archives, made up of letters, legal documents, printed pamphlets, maps, orders, and many other material types.

It opens up unprecedented opportunities for the interdisciplinary study of early American, Atlantic, and imperial histories from different perspectives – ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. It will offer an exciting foundation for original undergraduate and graduate work in the years to come – for essays, dissertations and research projects – and it includes thematic essays and handwritten text recognition.

The material is divided into five modules that treat subjects including indigenous relations, the evolution of slavery, revolution and political change, economic transactions and commercial development, and everyday life. The acquisition in perpetuity, whose list price would ordinarily be in excess of £175,000, was made possible thanks also to the Library’s Special Acquisition fund and Dr Ben Marsh’s role as a guest editor for the resource. We will be celebrating the availability of the new resource at the Annual Bolt Lecture (hosted by the Centre of American Studies) on 12 February 2020.

How to access ‘Colonial America’

Log in with your Kent IT account details.



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Conversations on Capitalism II: Narrating Capitalism

Conversations on Capitalism II: Narrating Capitalism – How have people attempted to make sense of capitalism by telling stories about it?

About this Event

One of the most challenging aspects about the study of capitalism is being able to get some critical distance from it; to see the forest for the trees. Understanding how people have attempted to make sense of capitalism by telling stories about it, has long been of interest to scholars, and in this talk, we will take part in an effort to understand the influence of narrative on our understandings of capitalist development.

Dr Will Norman, Reader in American Literature and Culture at the Centre for American Studies chairs a discussion with Dr Sue Currell (University of Sussex) and Dr Tim Jelfs (University of Groningen).

This event is open to the public and all are welcome to attend the discussion and a reception afterwards.

About the contributors

Sue Currell is Reader in American Literature at the University of Sussex. Her work looks at the ways in which ideas about modernity have entered into the experience of being American and the way identity is constructed and formulated. The author of several books, including The March of Spare Time: The Problem and Promise of Leisure in the Great Depression, she has most recently published a book on New Masses magazine.

Tim Jelfs is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Groningen. His research examines 20th and 21st century U.S. literature, culture, history and politics. His book The Argument About Things in the 1980s: Neoliberalism and the Remaking of American Culture was published in 2018.

About Conversations on Capitalism

World events and a teetering global economy have brought capitalism back into the centre of scholarly debate. Particularly in the history of the United States, the result has been a creative, searching study of the origins and development of a system that in a wider culture appears natural. Along with this work has come an equally vital debate about the problems of this new literature from all corners.
This year, the Centre for American Studies will create a platform for this debate: a series of open, informal talks that will form a year-long conversation with academics, students, staff and the wider public. The aim of these conversations will be to spark a broader debate not only about the new work in this field, but seek unique ways of thinking about and talking about capitalism in the twenty-first century.

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Announcing two fully-funded PhD Scholarship Opportunities

We are delighted to announce two fully-funded doctoral opportunities for those who are planning to embark on a PhD programme in the 2020-21 academic year.

University of Kent Vice Chancellor Research Scholarship
The Centre for American Studies will be awarding a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Scholarship to a student embarking on a PhD in October 2020. To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply to the American Studies PhD programme via the University’s online application pages by 19th January 2020. All applications received before this date will automatically be considered for this scholarship.

How to apply:
To be eligible for the American Studies Vice-Chancellor’s Research studentship the topic must be an interdisciplinary project encompassing American culture, history, politics or literatures. Candidates must submit their application for a PhD with American Studies at the University of Kent by the specified deadline. This must be done online via the Postgraduate Admissions web form.

PhD Studentship: CHASE (AHRC)
The University of Kent is proud to be part of the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) which was awarded a £17million Doctoral Training Partnership by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in October 2013. Our partners include The Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmiths, the Open University, and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Sussex. CHASE is one of only 11 UK AHRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships and the partners have committed an additional £10million in studentship funding which allow CHASE to support over 375 PhD students in the arts and humanities across the partner institutions over five years. CHASE will offer students a wide range of exciting opportunities to gain professional experience, work across institutions and disciplines, and acquire advanced research skills. Further information is available at:

New students wishing to be considered for these scholarships must apply for a PhD place at the University of Kent by 10th January 2020 at the latest. Applicants are advised to discuss their research project with academic members of staff in the relevant schools as soon as possible. Any current PhD students wishing to be considered for AHRC funding should contact their Centre Director of Graduate Studies (with responsibility for research programmes) to advise them of this as soon as possible or by 10th January 2020 at the very latest.


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Clearing and Adjustment 2019

The Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent is currently accepting clearing and adjustment applications from well-qualified applicants to the following degree courses:

American Studies – BA (Hons)
American Studies (History) – BA (Hons)
American Studies (Latin America) – BA (Hons)
American Studies (Literature) – BA (Hons)

If you are in Clearing or wish to apply via Adjustment you should view our courses and apply online as soon as possible. Clearing places are often very popular, so getting your application in early will make sure you have access to the best options for you.

Every year, thousands of students use Clearing to find a university place. You’re eligible for Clearing if you have applied in the current application year, you have not withdrawn your application and one of the following criteria applies to you:

~you applied before 30 June and were not made any offers, or you declined the offers made
~you did not meet the conditions of your firm and insurance choices, and they have declined to take you, or you have declined any alternative offers
~you applied after 30 June.

See also
About Clearing

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American Intellectual History Group meeting: 8-9 July

The Centre for American Studies is pleased to host the next meeting of the American Intellectual History Group, between the 8th and 9th July 2019, at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus. The group – which is convened by Prof. Emeritus Richard King of the University of Nottingham – meets twice annual to discuss significant texts in the history of American thought and ideas.

Discussion sessions will take place on Monday 8th July from 14:30-17:30 and on Tuesday 9th, from 9:30-11:00 – anyone who would like to attend should email Michael Docherty as early as possible for further joining details.

At July’s meeting, the group will discuss Eugene D. Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. First published in 1976, this landmark history of slavery in the South challenged conventional views of slaves by illuminating the many forms of resistance to dehumanization that developed in slave society.

Rather than emphasizing the cruelty and degradation of slavery, historian Eugene Genovese investigates the ways that slaves forced their owners to acknowledge their humanity through culture, music, and religion. Not merely passive victims, the slaves in this account actively engaged with the paternalism of slaveholding culture in ways that supported their self-respect and aspirations for freedom. Roll, Jordan, Roll covers a vast range of subjects, from slave weddings and funerals, to the language, food, clothing, and labour of slaves, and places particular emphasis on religion as both a major battleground for psychological control and a paradoxical source of spiritual strength. Displaying keen insight into the minds of both slaves and slaveholders, Roll, Jordan, Roll is a testament to the power of the human spirit under conditions of extreme oppression.

Eugene D. Genovese (1930-2012) was the author of several books, including Roll, Jordan, Roll, for which he won the Bancroft Prize; The Southern Tradition; and The Southern Front. Genovese was known for his Marxist perspective in regards to the study of power, class, and race relations in during plantation life in the old south.


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Dr Erik Mathisen on President Ulysses S. Grant (BBC Radio 4)

Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Kent, Dr Erik Mathisen, was amongst guests on BBC Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time‘ programme last week, discussing the impact of Ulysses Grant’s presidency on Americans in the years after the Civil War in which he, with Lincoln, had led the Union Army to victory.

Grant’s predecessor, Andrew Johnson, was prepared to let the Southern States decide for themselves which rights to allow freed slaves; Grant supported equal rights, and he used troops and Enforcement Acts to defeat the Ku klux Klan which was violently suppressing African Americans. In later years Grant was remembered mainly for the corruption scandals under his term of office, and for his failure to support or protect Native Americans, but in more recent decades his support for reconstruction has prompted a reassessment.

‘In Our Time’ host, Melvyn Bragg, was also joined by discussion guests Susan-Mary Grant, Professor of American History at Newcastle University and Robert Cook, Professor of American History at the University of Sussex. The programme was first broadcast on Thursday 30th May on BBC Radio 4 and is available on BBC Sounds.

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Claire Taylor – Postgraduate Administrator Prize Winner

Congratulations to our Centre Administration Manager, Claire Taylor, who has won a Graduate School Prize.  Claire was awarded “The Postgraduate Administrator Prize” at the Kent Researchers’ Showcase event yesterday by Professor Paul Allain, Dean of the Graduate School.  This prize  recognises the excellent achievements of an administrative staff member working in support of postgraduate education and research at Kent.

Well done Claire!

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Amplifying Archives: a Bolt Scholarship research trip report

Ellie Armon Azoulay, a PhD student at the Centre for American Studies, has recently returned from a month’s research trip in the USA, having been awarded this year’s Christine and Ian Bolt Scholarship. The scholarship was set up in memory of Christine Bolt, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Kent, by her husband, and supports a sustained period of research in America.

Ellie’s PhD thesis is entitled, The Voiceless Were Singing When You Came to Give Them Voice; Confronting Practices of Collecting African American Folk Music in the US, 1900-1950. The study explores different approaches to collecting African American folk music during the first half of the 20th century, and how these can affect representation and the understanding of an important historical archive.

Reflecting on her research trip, Ellie writes;

“For the past year and a half, I’ve been exploring the surprisingly rich terrain of Americanist scholarship within the UK, and simultaneously taking advantage of the multiple resources and databases available online. The distance between the UK and America is not just geographical, but cultural, which – for me – provides a variety of perspectives, and a certain freedom of expression.

One of my research aims is to identify the role of national and federal institutions in constructing national identity and historical narratives. Crucially, it is committed to highlighting and resounding other voices and initiatives – those which are often more regional, locale and smaller-scale – and which have often been marginalized historically. In the course of my research it became clear to me that I needed to question what materials exist beyond reach and accessibility. A simple search reaffirmed the bleak reality under which hegemonic institutions have greater resources to digitize and advance their collections, while those who were historically marginalized are still struggling to match such efforts.

With this understanding it became evident that I must find a way to overcome such barriers (geographical and economical) and visits local, unique archives and collections to study their content. I was extremely excited to learn about the Ian and Christine Bolt Scholarship and even more fortunate to have received it. It allowed me to fulfil an ambitious plan to visit five different collections at three different states – three of them kept in the archives and special collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Moreover, spending times in these places enabled me to visit state archives, and local libraries to explore parallel links and expand the local context relevant to my research. In addition to these materials, I took advantage of this travel to follow the footsteps of my research subjects – the collectors – to be in places where the recordings took place, take photographs of specific locations, trace some of their living family members and to initiate some encounters and interactions that can only happen from word of mouth.

The Bolt Scholarship has allowed me access to smaller, sometime silenced or forgotten collections that would less likely to be digitized and therefore unknown to the broader research community as well as the wide public. The award offers young researchers like me a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in a long-term research endeavour that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”

Image: Mandolin player, n.d., From Tintypes Collection, Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University.

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Registration open for ‘Visualising the Americas’

Now in its third year, The University of Kent’s Annual Americanist Symposium will take place on Monday 3rd June 2019, at the University’s Canterbury campus. The event is free and everyone is welcome to attend. Register as soon as possible to secure your place and follow @KentAmSymposium for updates regarding the symposium.

This one day symposium will explore how the Americas have been visualised, with speakers using a singular specific image as a gateway to broader events, trends, and figures. This interdisciplinary event will examine a wide range of themes, and promises to be an exciting and engaging day showcasing the forefront of current American Studies research.

Symposium Programme
Keynote Speaker: Professor Luciana Martins, Birkbeck, University of London
‘Expanding the field: visual and material sources in Latin American research’

Endnote Speaker: Dr. Phil Hatfield, Eccles Centre
‘The ‘Patriotic Indian Chiefs’: propaganda, photography and Canada’s First Nations’

Panel 1: ‘Photography, Activism, and Memory’ (Chair: Megan King, University of Kent)
Charlotte James, University of Nottingham: ‘A Young, Determined Harriet Tubman’ The Power of Photography in the Memory of Harriet Tubman and Nineteenth Century Black Antislavery Activists’

Paul Young, University of Edinburgh: ‘“See dis pictyah in my han’?”: Pictures and Power in the Life and Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar’

Emily Brady, University of Nottingham: ‘“No Matter What It Takes To Get The Job Done”: Elizabeth “Tex” Williams and African American Women Photographers in the US Military

Panel 2: Perspectives on Culture, Nationality, Politics, and Violence (Chair: Sarah Smeed, University of Kent)

Alice Patchett, Durham University: Depicting Corn: Nation and Narrative in American Gothic and Horror Fiction

Chloe Balandier, University of Strasbourg: ‘Doubling The Poet’s Perspective: A European Pointillist Painting in the U.S.’

Tim Galsworthy, University of Sussex: ‘Barry Goldwater, Confederate Icon?: Civil War memory, civil rights, and the “Party of Lincoln”’

Adam Dawson, University of East Anglia: ‘Some Chips and a Pack of Gum: Objects and the Black Male Body in Contemporary African American Young Adult Literature’

Panel 3: Representations, Witnessing, and Agency (Chair: Ellie Armon Azoulay, University of Kent)

Jennifer Dos Reis Dos Santos, Aberystwyth University: ‘Voodoo Feminism’

Sheila Brannigan, NOVA School of Social Sciences and Humanities: ‘Power and knowledge in Gordon Parks’ Homeless Couple, Harlem, 1948’

Elizabeth Collier, University of Essex: ‘The photographic medium and the visualisation of the mask in Tar Baby by Toni Morrison’

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Film Screening: The Psychosis of Whiteness

All are welcome to attend a free screening of this documentary, followed by a short Q&A panel discussion on Friday 22 March at 16.30 to 18.15 in the Gulbenkian Cinema at the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent. Please book your free place through

The Psychosis of Whiteness sheds light on society’s perceptions of race and racism by exploring cinematic representations of the slave trade. This documentary takes an in-depth look at big budget films that focus on the transatlantic slave trade and, using a wealth of sources and interviews, it argues that these depictions are metaphoric hallucinations about race. Rather than blaming the powerful institutions that are responsible for slavery, these films rewrite history by praising those same institutions for abolishing the slave trade.

We have assembled a panel who will bring multiple perspectives from areas that the film touches on: Eugene Nulman (the co-writer and director, Birmingham City University), Ben Marsh (History), Charles Devellennes (Politics), Richard Misek (Film), Sweta Rajan-Rankin (Sociology), and Carol Stewart (Medway African & Caribbean Association). It should be great chance to reflect on the historic and contemporary relationships between race, institutions of power, and cultural memory and practice.

You can find here an Open Access version of the scholarly article by Kehinde Andrews (published in the Journal of Black Studies in 2016) which helped inspire the making of the documentary, and gives a sense of its remit.



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