Dr Erik Mathisen is a historian of the nineteenth century, with a focus on the United States but with research interests in the history of slavery, emancipation and working people in the broader Atlantic World. He teaches on the history of the United States, the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, and the history of Atlantic slavery and emancipation. Since receiving his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, he has taught at several universities in the UK, most recently Queen Mary University of London. He joined the School of History at Kent in 2018.
Erik’s research blends political, intellectual, cultural and social history. His first book, The Loyal Republic: Traitors, Slaves and the Remaking of Citizenship in Civil War America (2018), examined how the Civil War fused ideas about individual loyalties to questions about citizenship. Focused on how the formation of two modern states brought about new definitions and new obligations of citizenship, the book shows how white southerners negotiated the transition from Confederate citizens to American traitors, while African Americans sought to leverage their loyalty to claim rights and access to a victorious United States in the Civil War’s wake.
With the support of fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University, Erik has started work on a new book project: a history of free labour, capitalism and emancipation in the nineteenth century Atlantic World. Running from the 1830s to the 1870s, Age of Emancipation tells the story of how the struggle over abolitionism and the development of global capitalism, brought about conflicts over the meaning of free labour for reformers and political leaders, working people and the enslaved across the Atlantic World. Equal parts intellectual, labour and political history, the project places enslaved people at the centre of a global story that connects questions about race, labour, the development of capitalism, and the ascendance of empire in the mid to late-nineteenth century.
Erik has published a variety of work in edited collections and journals like the Journal of the Early Republic and the Journal of the Civil War Era. He is at work on two new articles and a monograph relating to his current research.
Erik teaches on first year survey of U.S. history, “Emergence of America,” a second year module on the Civil War and Reconstruction periods entitled “Civil War America,” and a Special Subject entitled “Age of Emancipation,” that examines the history of slavery and emancipation across the nineteenth century Americas and the Caribbean.
Erik would be happy to field any questions that potential postgraduate students might have about projects pertaining to his areas of expertise.