Ben Marsh grew up in Oxfordshire, completed his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Cambridge (Downing College), and subsequently taught at Brunel University (2001-2) the University of Oxford, where he was a Lecturer in Colonial & Revolutionary American History (2002-4), and the University of Stirling in Scotland (2004-14). He joined the School of History at Kent in September 2014.
His main research interests are in the social and economic history of the Atlantic world c.1500-1820 and the settlement of early America, including gender and race history, the US South and slave societies, demography, the American Revolution, and latterly textile history. His first book, Georgia's Frontier Women, explained how women's lives and experiences were central to the history and evolution of the colony of Georgia between the 1730s and 1790s.
He is currently nearing completion of a longstanding research project on attempts to cultivate silk in the Atlantic world, which explores the intersections between political economy, utopianism, textile and commodity history, migration, and colonialism – entitled “Silk and the Atlantic World, c.1500-1840.” Supported by an AHRC Research Fellowship in 2013 as well as smaller grants from the Pasold Textile Research Fund, the Carnegie Trust, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the project addresses why, how, and with what success different regions of the Americas took on the challenge of sericulture. Aspects of the research were recently recognised with the award of the Natalie Rothstein Prize by the Textile Society (2014), and Ben was featured as a consultant and guest on the BBC Radio 4 series presented by Steph McGovern in October 2013, “Silk”. Ben's work on the topic features in the international Enlightened Princesses exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art and Kensington Palace in 2017.
Beyond silk, Ben is working towards two projects: firstly, a microhistory of an episode of geophagy (clay eating) among a community of Lutherans on the Savannah River in the mid eighteenth century, whose medical and racial circumstances point to one of the earliest acute hookworm infestations documentable in North America; secondly, an exploration of the travails and rehabilitations of American loyalists during the Age of Revolutions. He has just completed co-editing a volume with Mike Rapport (University of Glasgow) on “Understanding and Teaching the Age of Revolutions” which is part of the Harvey Goldberg Series and forthcoming with the University of Wisconsin Press.
Engagement and Activities
Since 2016, Ben has been Director of Public Engagement for the Faculty of Humanities, a role intended to foster connections and collaborations between academics, their research, and wider audiences and communities beyond academia. He has featured on BBC Radio (latterly Witness, on Salem witchcraft and The History Hour, on the Donner Party), given talks and workshops to schools and history societies, and is working towards projects with museums and schools on the Age of Revolutions and the People's History of Kent.
Ben would be happy to field any questions or explore any potential postgraduate research topics that relate to his areas of expertise. He currently has research students working on topics including loyalism in revolutionary Georgia, political identity in the Mississippi Territory, and textile exchange between whites and Indians in the Lower South.
Within the University, Ben is an affiliate of the Centre for American Studies, the Centre for Heritage, and involved in work with colleagues in the History of Colonialisms, Animal Studies, and Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Beyond the University, Ben is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and currently a committee member of the Historical Association (Canterbury), a member of the Canterbury Heritage Forum, sits on the Educational Committee of Waterloo200, and is the under 12s coach for Faversham Town Youth FC.
University of Kent
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