Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Queen Mary University of London
Website URL
nineteenth century America, early Republic, capitalism, consumption, citizenship, the state, Civil War, gender, property, emotions, national identity, material culture.
Additional Contact Information
Best contact: email

Personal Info

About Me

I am interested in cultural histories of economy and economic ideas. Focusing on nineteenth-century America, I examine how women and men imagined, created and experienced capitalism in the United States. To do this I investigate how key parts of capitalist political economy – from tariffs and auctions – to property and slavery were understood, changed and made meaningful by people’s everyday experiences and ideas.

In my first book Luxurious Citizens: The Politics of Consumption in Nineteenth-Century America (Penn Press, 2017) I traced the ways in which Americans transformed their individual desires for goods into an index of civic worth in the antebellum period. Charting the contests over economic rights and obligations in the nineteenth century, I demonstrated how Americans placed  unbridled consumption at the heart of modern American political economy.

My current work examines how feelings about the loss of property during the American Civil War transformed ideas about the value of things, the concept of ownership and the relationship between the market and the self in nineteenth century America. The project looks at how Americans from across the nation demanded restitution from the state and how their efforts, both successful and failed, can help us to see how the creation of modern capitalism was an emotional project as well as a political one.

I am also interested in the history of visual and material culture, and in November 2018 I am co-organising a conference at the McNeil Centre for Early American Studies: “Coming to Terms: Confronting War and Peace through the Visual and Material in the Atlantic World.” My article, “Promoting Pleasure as Political Economy: The Transformation of American Advertising, 1800 to 1850” won the Katherine C. Grier Prize for the best article published in the Winterthur Portfolio in 2015-2016.

I have reviewed books for the American Historical Review, The Journal of the Early Republic, The William and Mary Quarterly, The Journal of American Studies and American Nineteenth Century History. I have also provided peer review for Penn Press, Chicago University Press and Harvard University Press.

In 2014 I won the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers competition, and became one of ten young academics that year to work with the BBC in broadcasting my research through radio and TV. I now appear on the BBC on a regular basis.

Recent Publications

Luxurious Citizens: Consumption and Civic Belonging in Nineteenth Century America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).

David Sim, Joanna Cohen, Patrick J. Doyle and Lydia Plath, “‘No Backward Step: Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom” Journal of American Studies 50:1 (Feb 2016): 231-247.

“To Catch the Public Taste”: Interpreting American Consumers in the Era of Atlantic Free Trade, 1783-1854,”in The Atlantic Worlded. D’Maris Coffman, Adrian Leonard and William O’ Reilly (London and New York: Routledge, 2015): 573-596.

“Promoting Pleasure as Political Economy: The Transformation of American Advertising, 1800 to 1850,” The Winterthur Portfolio48: 2/3, Representations of Economy: Lithography in America from 1820 to 1860 (Summer/Autumn 2014): 163-190.

“Ephemeral Loyalties? Consumption, Commerce and Jeffersonian Politics, 1806-1815,” The Readex Report,(November 2011, 6/4).

“‘The Right to Purchase is as Free as the Right to Sell.’ Defining consumers as citizens in the auction-house conflicts of the early republic.” Journal of the Early Republic, 30: 1 (Spring 2010), 25 – 62.

“Images and Imagination: Consumers in Commercial Lithography,” The Book, (March, 2008, Number 74).


Media Coverage
BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Online, The Conversation, the History News Network.
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
Expertise by Topic
American Civil War, American Founding Era, Capitalism, Gender, Government, Material Culture, Politics, Urban History, Women