Professor Nicholas Guyatt

Fellow, Welfare Tutor, Director of Studies in History (Part II)
University Positions
Professor of North American History
Specialising in
Eighteenth and nineteenth-century North American history

Nicholas Guyatt is Professor of North American History at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Jesus College.

Academic interests

My work focuses on questions of race, empire and citizenship in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I’m particularly interested in the construction of racial categories and in the relationship between universalist ideas (especially ideas of equality) and the management of racial diversity in the early American republic. I’m also interested in how Americans thought about the world beyond the United States, and in the role of American thinkers and politics in shaping ideas about world order in the long nineteenth century.

Degrees obtained

  • BA, Cantab.
  • MPhil, Cantab.
  • PhD, Princeton.

Awards and prizes

  • Commended Lecturer, CUSU Student-Led Teaching Awards, 2019.
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, 2015.
  • British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, 2013-14.
  • Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Award, University of York, 2012.
  • Stanford Humanities Center External Faculty Fellowship, 2009-10. 


I did my first degree in English here at Cambridge, then migrated to the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History before beginning a PhD in History. For a number of reasons, mostly my good fortune in receiving a Procter Fellowship, I moved to Princeton University and completed my doctorate under the direction of Daniel T. Rodgers. I then taught in Princeton and, for three years, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. In 2008 I came back to the UK to teach history at the University of York, and in 2014 I was appointed to my current post at Cambridge.

I’ve written on a variety of topics in American history from the colonial period to the very recent past. My first monograph, Providence and the Invention of the United States, was a study of American ideas of providential nationalism – the belief that God had a special role for the United States in history. My second book, Bind Us Apart, explored the disconcerting relationship between ideas of racial equality among white Americans and programmes for ‘colonising’ African Americans and Native Americans in separate homelands.

I’m currently working on a book about Dartmoor Prison, and especially the 6500 Americans who were held there during the War of 1812. (Around a thousand of whom were black.) I’m also editing the Oxford Illustrated History of the United States, and tinkering with another project on how Americans developed ideas about imperialism in the nineteenth century by studying other people’s empires.

I’ve written three trashier books on completely different subjects, including one on the significance of Bible prophecy to evangelical Christians in the contemporary United States. (The title – Have a Nice Doomsday – was not my idea.) I’ve written about American history and politics for the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Nation, the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. I’ve also been a guest or adviser on a number of TV and radio programmes exploring American history, including Radio 4’s In Our Time and BBC Four’s Racism: A history.

Other interests

Baking, gardening, hiking, trolling my children.

Department link

Publications, links and resources

  • Guyatt, N. (2020 forthcoming), Making a Republic Anti-Imperial: Critiquing Empire in the early United States, in Michael Blaakman and Emily Conroy-Krutz, eds., Making a Republic Imperial, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Guyatt, N. (2020 forthcoming), The United States between Nation and Empire, 1776-1820, in Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton, eds., The Cambridge History of America and the World, Volume 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Guyatt, N. (2017), Rethinking Colonization in the Early United States, in Beverly C. Tomek and Matthew J. Hetrick, eds.,  New Directions in the Study of African American Recolonization, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 329-50.
  • Guyatt, N. (2016), Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation. New York and Oxford: Basic Books and Oxford University Press.
  • Guyatt, N. (2016), Tocqueville’s Prophecy: The United States and the Caribbean, 1750-1871, in Jörg Nagler et al., eds., The Transnational Significance of the American Civil War, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 205-29.
  • Guyatt, N. (2015), “The future empire of the freedmen”: Republican colonization schemes in Texas and Mexico, 1861-65’, in Adam I. Arenson and Andrew R. Graybill, eds., Civil War Wests, Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 95-117.
  • Guyatt, N. (2014), “An impossible idea?” The curious career of internal colonization, Journal of the Civil War Era 4, 234-263.
  • Guyatt, N. (2013), The End of the Cold War, in Richard H. Immerman and Petra Goedde, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 605-22.
  • Guyatt, N. (2011), America’s Conservatory: Race, Reconstruction and the Santo Domingo Controversy, Journal of American History, 97, 974-1000.
  • Guyatt, N. (2011), Benjamin Franklin and the problem of racial diversity, in David Waldstreicher, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Benjamin Franklin, Oxford: Blackwell, 183- 210.
  • Guyatt, N., ed. (2010), War, Empire and Slavery, 1770-1830, edited with Richard Bessel and Jane Rendall, Houndmills: Palgrave.
  • Guyatt, N. (2009), “The outskirts of our happiness”: Race and the Lure of Colonization in the Early Republic, Journal of American History, 95, 986-1011.
  • Guyatt, N. (2007), Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607-1876, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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