Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, University of Kansas, Department of History; Also Associate Director for Programming, Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.
Areas of Research: 19th Century U.S. antislavery and democratic movements, and U.S. political history.
Education: Ph.D., Princeton University, 1996
Major Publications: Jacksonian Antislavery and the Politics of Free Soil, 1824-1854 (UNC Press, 2004); The Routledge Atlas of African American History (Routledge, 2000)
Earle is currently working on a book on John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry for Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.
Awards: Winner of the 2005 SHEAR First Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Co-winner, 2005 Byron Caldwell Smith Book Prize, Hall Center for the Humanities, University of Kansas.
Celebration of Teaching Honoree, Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Kansas, 2002
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2000; American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 1999-2000; Huntington Library Research Fellowship, 1999-2000 (San Marino, California).
I was already almost a year into research on a dissertation about the New York Anti-Rent Wars of the 1840s when I found out someone else was working on the same topic. This is exactly the type of horrific fantasy that keeps graduate students up in the middle of the night. The place I found out was more than a little ignominious – in the men’s room of the Library Company of Philadelphia, where a senior scholar one urinal over remarked “I think there’s someone at Yale working on that very topic.” Well, I told myself, maybe this person had a peculiar or different take on the uprising from me. Maybe he or she had stalled and would never finish. Or perhaps the topic was meaty enough to support two dissertations.
A very long phone conversation with that particular graduate student convinced me that I should back off. He had a five-year head start on me, was working with David Davis, and was interested in the same political and cultural ramifications that I was among landless tenants in the Hudson Valley in the decades before the Civil War. I decided to take some of my preliminary conclusions about democracy, land, and antislavery politics from that project and broaden the study to look at the entire antebellum North. After that initial trauma, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Not only do we have an important study of the Anti-renters from Prof. Reeve Huston, but my own book on the origins of the free soil movement has begun to garner good reviews and even some praise from prize committees.
If there is any moral to this story, it’s that oftentimes conflicts over shared topics can have positive outcomes for all parties. I may have added to my time in graduate school, but I think my dissertation and book benefited from my year with the Anti-Renters. They’re still in there – it’s just a little harder to find them. And they’re part of a larger story about how the politics of land and slavery collided in North the 1840s and 50s.
By Jonathan Earle
About Jonathan Earle