Matthew Karp, University of Pennsylvania
Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Fellow
My dissertation traces American slaveholding attitudes about international affairs from roughly 1833 until 1865. Using manuscript sources, periodicals, and government documents, I identify a foreign policy of slavery that profoundly shaped national politics across the antebellum era. While much scholarship has depicted southern elites as defensive reactionaries, hostile to centralized authority, I argue that slaveholders eagerly enlisted federal power in the service of a bold foreign policy, involving naval and military reform, assertive diplomacy, and territorial expansion. Ultimately, I hope a new emphasis on the international dimension of pro-slavery politics can reshape old understandings of the antebellum United States, the nineteenth century Atlantic world, and the roots of the Civil War.