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I received a BA from the University of Cambridge in 1999 and a PhD from Harvard University in 2006. I joined the Department of History and the University of Maryland thereafter and received tenure in 2012.

I have published eleven articles and chapters as well as two books. A third will be published in October 2019. 

I have held two dozen research fellowships including residencies at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Resistance at Yale University and the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. My work has also been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

I am proud to serve as a Trustee of the Maryland Historical Society, as an elected member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

I live in University Park, Maryland, with my wife and two daughters.



Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home. This new book, due out with Simon & Schuster on October 15, 2019, follows the odyssey of five free black boys kidnapped from Philadelphia in 1825 who were coffled to Mississippi for sale as slaves, only to escape, return and lead a manhunt to bring their former captors to justice.

We Shall Be No More: Suicide and Self-Government in the Newly United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).  This is the first book to examine the role that discourse regarding self-destruction played in the cultural formation of the early republic.

Buried Lives: Incarcerated in Early America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012). This co-edited volume of essays centers on the experience of incarcerated subjects and citizens in early America, and is the product of a conference organized at the McNeil Center in 2009.


“Counterfeit Kin: Kidnappers of Color, the Reverse Underground Railroad, and the Origins of Practical Abolition,” Journal of the Early Republic 38, no. 2 (2018), 199-230.

“The Moral Thermometer: Rush, Republicanism, and Suicide,” Early American Studies 15, no. 2 (2017), 308-331.

“’Thence to Patty Cannon’s’: Gender, Family, and the Reverse Underground Railroad,” Slavery & Abolition 37, no. 1 (2016): 661-679.

“The Great Jugular Vein of Slavery: New Histories of the Domestic Slave Trade,” History Compass 11, no. 12 (2013): 1150-1164.

“Slave Suicide, Abolition and the Problem of Resistance,” Slavery & Abolition 33, no. 4 (2012): 525-549.

“In Werther’s Thrall: Suicide and the Power of Sentimental Reading in Early National America,” Early American Literature 46, no. 1 (2011): 93-120. Winner of Nineteenth-Century Studies Association's Emerging Scholar Award, 2012.

“The Double Guilt of Dueling: The Stain of Suicide in Anti-Dueling Rhetoric in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 29, no. 3 (2009): 383-410.

“‘Our People die well’: Death-bed Scenes in John Wesley’s Arminian Magazine,” Mortality 10, no. 3 (2005): 210-223.


“Introduction” in Buried Lives: Incarcerated in Early America, ed. Michele Lise Tarter and Richard Bell (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012): 1-32. Co-authored with Michele Lise Tarter.

“Weeping for Werther: Suicide, Sympathy and the Reading Revolution in Early America” in The History of Reading: International Perspectives, c.1500-1990, ed. W. R. Owens and Shafquat Towheed (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011): 48-63.

“John Pierce’s Pitch Pipe: Music and Myth-construction in Early National Celebrations,” in New England Celebrates: Spectacle, Commemoration, and Festivity, ed. Peter Benes (Boston: Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, 2000): 83-104.