‘Agent Greenhill taught his people better manners’: Masculine authority and subjection between stability and breakdown in the seventeenth-century Atlantic World

Friday Seminar
Phillip Emanuel, McNeil Center for Early American Studies
Apr 5, 2024 at - | Location: McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 3355 Woodland Walk/Zoom


Phillip Emanuel is a Barra Postdoctoral Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. His dissertation-to-book project focuses on how seventeenth-century imperial and trading company administrators in England, the American colonies, and on the African coast constructed their authority during a period of rapid imperial expansion. It argues that officials must be understood as heads of what he calls ‘administrative households’. In these organizations of power, one man held the position of secretary or its equivalent and was assisted by a cadre of others over whom he exercised authority modelled on the domestic household but rooted in the techniques of administration. Within these households, officials’ reliance on servants of lower social standing, clients, members of kinship networks, women with family ties to the administration, religiously heterodox or non-European men, and even enslaved children meant that administrative households were not homosocial spaces filled with a ‘professional class’ of modern civil servants. Instead, they had more in common with domestic households made up of a diverse group of people with differentiated social statuses. As a result, officials, their administrative households, and the imperial state itself depended upon ongoing performances of class, gender, race, and age as the basis of the hierarchical system they established to oversee the British Empire throughout the following centuries.

Phillip received an MA and PhD from William & Mary. Prior to this, he received a BA (Hons) in History and English from the University of Sydney before going on to the MPhil in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge. Before pursuing his PhD, he had a six-year career as an art handler at international auction houses on both sides of the Atlantic, which allowed him to develop his interest in art and material culture.


The McNeil Center sponsors a seminar that meets on Friday afternoons approximately twice a month between September and May, with the paper for each session circulated in advance. Over two hundred people attend at least once a year, with an average attendance of 40 to 50 at meetings held at various sites in the Delaware Valley. While most of the regular attendees are graduate students and faculty from institutions in the Philadelphia area, participants come from as far afield as Long Island, New York City, Princeton, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington. 

The McNeil Center will utilize a hybrid format for seminars in which participants may gather together at the McNeil Center building (or occasionally at an MCEAS Consortium institution host in the Philadelphia area) or attend via Zoom. For regular updates about our seminars, please join our mailing list. Please email us at mceas@sas.upenn.edu with any questions.