Emma Hart teaches and researches the history of early North America, the Atlantic World, and early modern Britain between 1500 and 1800. At Penn she is a Professor of History, Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and a co-editor of the Penn Press series, “Early American Studies.”
Her major research interests lie in urban history, social, and economic history, as well as in the intersections of history, material culture, urban studies, geography and sociology. She has written two books; Building Charleston: Town and Society in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic World (UVA Press, 2010/University of South Carolina Press, 2015) and Trading Spaces: The Colonial Marketplace and the Foundations of American Capitalism (University of Chicago Press, 2019). Additionally she has published scholarly articles in, among other places, The William and Mary Quarterly, Early American Studies, The Journal of Southern History, Urban History (where she co-edited a special issue on early modern cities and globalization with Mariana Dantas), Eighteenth-Century Studies, and The Journal of Urban History. Her essays are also part of The Cambridge History of America and the World (2021), and The Cambridge History of the American Revolution (forthcoming).
Professor Hart is currently developing two new research projects. The first is a biography of the eighteenth-century Scottish novelist, historian, and essayist, Tobias Smollett. The project will use Smollett’s life and work as a means of exploring Britons’ seemingly endless search for collective identity and a place on the world stage. The second, a long history of America’s urban-rural divide, traces the evolution of this discourse of division that exists not only in the United States but also in other Atlantic-facing nations such as Britain and France. She is a founding board member of the Global Urban History Project, a transnational online collective of scholars who research the history of the city as a space and as an agent of globalization.
Her work has been supported by the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies’ Barra Sabbatical Fellowship, the Huntington Library, The Program in Early American Economy and Society at the Library Company of Philadelphia, The Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. In 2015 she was elected as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.