Current Projects

 
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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 the colonial and early national periods 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 Nation 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. 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. Or in other words, what we mean when we say free expression: free as in uncensored, and free as in not paid for. Copyright, I argue, is a critical feature in the relationship between expression and state formation in the long eighteenth century.

Building on this focus, I'm at work on an article on Lewis Evans, the colonial geographer, and another on the New York State literary property law, passed in 1786. I'm also thinking ahead towards my second book, tentatively titled Knock Off: Intellectual Property and Appropriation in the Early Republic, which will focus on extralegal origins of cultural appropriation and how they intersect with state formation. 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 + Media section.


Teaching

In an all-time favorite example of trying to put pedagogical principles into practice, in the summer of 2017 I visited the Isle of Iona in Scotland, inspired in no small part by the role of literary property in the legend of its founding by St. Columba.

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.

 


C.V. and Further Details

My research is generously funded by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, 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 at 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


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