Upcoming Book Projects
“'The Greatest Man in the World': A Global History of George Washington"
What did other countries think of George Washington? This project explores George Washington as a global figure during his own lifetime. It follows different nations’ changing perceptions of Washington from the French and Indian War through his death and apotheosis. Framing early America within a global history, this manuscript is the first to examine Washington as a world figure, rather than one that was exclusively American. It begins with the French and Indian War and his dubious emergence on the world scene, where the French cast him as an “assassin” and the British lamented his signing an article of surrender as “the most infamous [document] a British subject ever put his hand to.” The manuscript traces Washington’s global ascent, whereby he was admired by Louis XVI for his humanity, Frederick the Great for his military skill, and George III for simply being “the greatest man in the world.” It advances that Washington, in turn, became a symbol beyond his own country and representative of universal concepts of humanity, liberty, and leadership.
"Redemption: The American Revolution, Ethics, and Abolitionism in Britain and the United States”
In 1787, Article 1 Section 9 of the United States Constitution formalized the first attempt at a national anti-slavery policy. James Madison boasted that it was “a great point in favor of humanity.” But according to the constitutional provision, no action could be taken for another twenty-one years. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Great Britain, which was still reeling from its defeat in the American Revolution, used the issue of slavery to reassert itself as the United States’ moral superior. For many Americans, the Revolutionary War was fought to save themselves from the horrors of slavery. Not the slavery experienced by vast numbers of African American slaves, but a form of ideological and political slavery that would strip the colonists of their natural rights. America had accused Britain of being lost to honor and virtue, and the Empire’s defeat in the war seemed to support this allegation. In order to reclaim its honor, Britain attempted to assert its ethical superiority over the United States by targeting the inherent contradiction between American freedom and slavery. Slavery had always been a point of hypocrisy in the American rhetoric of superior ethics—one targeted by the British as early as the Revolutionary era—and it became a path for post-war Britain to regain the moral high ground and national honor. The anti-slavery legislation and abolitionist movement was a conscious effort by the British to prove themselves the Americans’ ethical betters on the world stage. In turn, the changing direction of the British offensive saw Americans react similarly in supporting abolitionism to maintain their reputation of virtue.