Fields: Early America, the Caribbean, and Public History
Education: B.A., History, University of Pittsburgh (2015)
Interests: History in contemporary American politics and culture, Early America, the Atlantic World, Material Culture, and Historiography
My work as a scholar has been eclectic, but centers around the primary inquiry of how people use the past to make sense of their lives and form identities, especially through literature, art, architecture, and theatre.
At the University of Pittsburgh I trained as a medievalist, and specifically researched the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th and 14th centuries. The last state to convert from paganism to Christianity (1386), the Grand Duchy arose out of a unique situation, initially coalescing into a formal state in response to crusades led by the Teutonic Order. My work explored how the interaction between the Duchy and Western Europe influenced European culture (primarily literature) and the gaps in historiography that have largely removed it from the narrative of medieval Europe. I also developed a fascination with medieval art and architecture and the ways they communicated historical and religious narratives, on a broad scale (using images to speak to a population that was largely illiterate) and among the elite, who commissioned precious works of art to make statements about their political rule and prestige. I worked for a year in the University's Special Collections department, igniting a passion for using rare books and archives to teach students the process of historical thinking, rather than memorization of "names and dates".
This experience in unpacking medieval ways of thinking has given me a unique perspective for approaching early American history, which is my main subject of study at UMass. My research will examine the historiography and myths of the founding of America, the role of biography, and how this history is used in contemporary politics, culture, and identity, especially in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: An American Musical, as well as monuments, art, architecture, and museums. I also hope to research the relationship between North America and the Caribbean in the colonial period and early Republic.