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Introducing the new Postdoctoral Fellow in North American History

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Welcome to the inaugural blog post in a series promoting the American history resources available at the IHR. In this post I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Benjamin Bankhurst and I have recently joined the School of Advanced Study as the Postdoctoral Fellow of North American History. 183712_10151164433194859_333601655_n

Before taking up this position I held teaching appointments at the LSE, King’s College London and Canterbury Christ Church University. In 2009 I was the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Fellow in Early American Religion at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. My research interests include the history of religion and ethnicity in the 18th-century Atlantic World. My Ph.D. thesis, completed in 2011, examined Irish migration to the Appalachian frontier during the era of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). Specifically, it focused on how news from the war-ravaged colonial backcountry and the arrival of American Presbyterian relief missions in Ireland collapsed emotional and spatial distance and produced a sense of transatlantic empathy among Ulster Presbyterians for their beleaguered kin across the ocean. This research forms the basis of my first book, Ulster Presbyterians and Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1763 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

I am also interested in library and book history and look forward to applying my past expertise in these fields to promote the rich colonial and American collections in the IHR and Senate House libraries. As a member of the research team on the AHRC-funded project ‘Private Books for Educational Use – the Formation of the Northern Congregational College Library’ (February 2012 and March 2013), I examined the provenance and individual object histories of 2,500 books once owned by various dissenting academies in the north of England during the 18th and 19th centuries. This results of our research (including a searchable list of former owners and examples of user annotation) are now integrated into the Virtual Library System on the Dissenting Academies Online. In my first few weeks at the IHR I have uncovered interesting provenance in the colonial collections relating to the early benefactors of the library. I look forward to sharing my findings on this subject on this blog in the months to come. Watch this space!

I am very excited to join the teams at the IHR and Senate House libraries and look forward to promoting American studies across the School of Advanced Study over the next two years. I am currently preparing several North American collection guides for the IHR and will be blogging about the highlights from our holdings throughout the year. I will begin later in the week with a few posts highlighting our Canadian resources.