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American Studies Research

Northumbria University currently has twelve Americanists on its staff, making it a leading international centre for American Studies.

The research of American Studies staff members embraces a wide variety of disciplines, often combined in genuinely interdisciplinary ways, and has a geographical scope that extends from the North American continent itself to global perspectives on the American experience. Recent books by American Studies staff include Patrick Andelic, Donkey Work: Congressional Democrats in Conservative America, 1974–1994 (University of Kansas Press, 2019); Victoria Bazin, Modernism Edited: Marianne Moore and the Dial Magazine (Edinburgh University Press, 2019); Elsa Devienne’s La ruée vers le sable: Une histoire environnementale des plages de Los Angeles au XXe siècle (Sorbonne Editions, 2020); and Joe Street’s Silicon Valley Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2023). In 2021, the Organization of American Historians awarded Dr Devienne’s monograph on the environmental history of Californian beaches the biannual Paul Adams Prize for the best book on American history published in a language other than English.

Several major projects are currently underway within the American Studies team, including The Sick South: Disease, Disability, Dying and Death in an American Region (led by Brian Ward and supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant) and Civil War Bluejackets (led by David Gleeson and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council). American Studies scholars are also working on projects investigating the Black Panther Party; the American South in British Popular Music; different American poets (from Walt Whitman to Lorine Niedecker); race and space in the San Francisco Bay Area; US-Nicaraguan relations; energy consumption in the twentieth-century USA; and US-based coastal activism in a comparative perspective. Our team members have a strong track record in attracting external funding, with grants and fellowships from bodies such as the AHRC, ESRC, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, Nuffield Foundation, Roosevelt Study Center in Middleburg, Harvard University, Huntington Library and the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

Our American Studies scholars have a deep commitment to the wider academic community. Brian Ward is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of American Studies and the Journal of Southern History; Clare Elliott is on the Management Board of the Journal of Transatlantic Studies, Elsa Devienne is on the Editorial Board of Transatlantica; and Joe Street is on the Editorial Board of the European Journal of American Culture. Each of these internationally renowned journals has a strong multi- and inter-disciplinary profile, publishing work in and across fields such as History, Literature, Film, Politics, International Relations, Music, Art, and Cultural Studies.

A number of Northumbria staff serve on the executive committees of professional organizations involved in American studies. Elsa Devienne is on the executive of the British Association of American Studies (BAAS), for which she also co-leads the sustainability initiative Green BAAS. In previous years, both Brian Ward (as Chair) and Joe Street (as Chair of Publications Sub-Committee) also served on the BAAS executive. David Gleeson is a member of the national executive of the Association of British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH).

Our team members also participate in activities that disseminate research findings to a wider audience. This includes online publications; articles in popular magazines and newspapers; media engagements with the BBC, Tile Documentary Films, PBS, American Public Television, Arte, France 3; and public lectures. Two Northumbria colleagues (David Gleeson and Brian Ward) have been appointed distinguished lecturers by the Organization of American Historians.

Northumbria University has hosted several major academic conferences in the field, including the 2015 BAAS Conference and the ‘Shadow of Selma’ Conference (also in 2015), which marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma March and the Voting Rights Act. In both 2012 and 2023, the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) conference was held at our university. 

American Studies staff have a strong record of postgraduate supervision and the projects in which we are involved attract the interest of future generations of researchers. We have a growing number of postgraduate students who contribute enormously to the work we do.


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A blog on all manner of research, publications, lectures, conferences, symposia, and more from Northumbria University's History and American Studies programmes.

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