My research centers on the political and commercial development of Anglo-American copyright in the eighteenth century...
There is a rich story of intellectual property in colonial and early national America that predates Mickey Mouse and even Wheaton v. Peters. Many wonderful scholars have demonstrated the importance of IP in a wide range of legal, literary, and bibliographic scholarship, however there has not yet been a book-length treatment of the political origins of copyright in the colonial and early national United States.
My forthcoming first book, The Engine of Free Expression: Copyrighting the State in Early America, won the 2017 Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) Dissertation Prize, and was a finalist for the Zuckerman Prize in American Studies. The Engine of Free Expression demonstrates that early literary property disputes, especially those involving maps and other forms of geographic texts and technology, were a pivotal feature in the contested development of individual, local, federal, and transnational sovereignty in early America. Copyright, I argue, is a critical feature in the relationship between expression and state formation in the long eighteenth century. I'm deeply interested in how understandings about the ownership of land and labor intersected with shifting views on the relationship between libel, sedition, and authority. Put another way, what we mean when we say free expression: free as in uncensored, and free as in not paid for?
More broadly, I study the history of communication (or book history), political economy, and legal culture, of which intellectual property is a fascinating meeting point! With these subjects in mind, I'm at work on an article on Lewis Evans, the colonial geographer, and another on maps and commemoration in the American Revolution. I'm also thinking ahead towards my second book, tentatively titled Knock Off: Intellectual Property and Appropriation, and have workshopped the first chapter another on the New York State literary property law, passed in 1786. This law, unique in its inclusive gender pronouns, tell us much about inheritance, heritage, and knowledge systems in the late eighteenth century, and particularly the role that women printers played in all three threads. I am also interesting in pursuing the project Crystallization of Public Opinion: Alexander Hamilton, Walter Lippmann, and The Regulation of Innovation, which will be a comparative account of the relationship between technology and government management of media. Additionally, I'm progressing on two collaborative digital humanities works: one on the complex anti-slavery publishing dynamics of Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist coalition, and the other, an interdisciplinary project on the circulation of William Blackstone's Commentaries which you can find more about in the Digital + Public History section. Lastly, I am co-editing a volume with Cornell University Press, The Age of Revolutions in the Digital Age, more details which are also forthcoming in the Digital + Public History section.
In my experience, pedagogy and research are inseparable elements of being a historian: archives and the classroom are mutually reinforcing spaces and one cannot flourish without the other. This is a perspective I strive to share with my students whenever possible, first at Hunter and Lehman Colleges, and now at Iona. By making primary source analysis central to all of my courses, from broad global and American history surveys to seminars on the American Revolution and intellectual property, the critical thinking skills necessary for deciphering archival materials provide students with essential tools for navigating their individual personal and professional growth as well as the complex world around them. Media and information literacy is essential for both intellectual and pre-professional development, and I firmly believe that history is a key discipline in honing these skills with our students.
C.V. and Further Details
My research is generously funded by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where I also serve on the Advisory Council, the Mellon Foundation, the Huntington Library, the American Antiquarian Society, the New-York Historical Society, and the Library Company of Philadelphia, among others. At Iona, I've received invaluable support from the Gardiner Foundation and the Provost's Office for Strategic Initiatives. My faculty page is available here. I've been fortunate to work for a series of institutions and individuals as an event coordinator, media liaison, grant writer, and fundraiser. I am thrilled to be combining these experiences in my public-facing role as the Director of the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies. For a full list of peer-reviewed publications, fellowships, invited talks, conference presentations, and professional service, you can check out my curriculum vitae here.