Holly Brewer
Burke Chair of American Cultural and Intellectual History and Associate Professor

Holly Brewer is a specialist in early American history and the early British empire.

Her work situates the origins and impact of political ideas in laws and practical policies across England and its American empire. Her first book traced the origin and impact of "democratical" ideas across  the empire by examining debates about who can consent in theory and legal practice: By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority won three national prizes including the 2008 Biennial Book Prize of the Order of the Coif from the American Association of Law Schools, the 2006 J. Willard Hurst Prize from the Law and Society Association and the 2006 Cromwell Prize from the American Society for Legal History. She also won three prizes for her article "Entailing Aristocracy in Colonial Virginia" (1997), including the 1998 Clifford Prize for the best article on any aspect of Eighteenth Century Studies and the 2000 Douglass Adair Memorial Award, for the best article published in the William and Mary Quarterly in the past six years.

She is currently finishing a book that situates the origins of American slavery in the ideas and legal practices associated with the divine rights of kings, tentatively entitled "Inheritable Blood: Slavery & Sovereignty in Early America and the British Empire,' for which she was awarded fellowships from the NEH, NHC in 2009, the Patrick Henry Fellowship from the Starr Center in 2012, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014. She recently published part of it as "Slavery, Sovereignty and 'Inheritable Blood': Reconsidering John Locke and the Origins of American Slavery" in the American Historical Review (October 2017), which received both the 2019 Srinivas Aravamudan Prize from the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies for an article published in the previous year that pushes the boundaries, geographical and conceptual, of eighteenth-century studies by using a transnational, comparative, or cosmopolitan approach as well as an Honorable Mention for the 2019 Clifford Prize, American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.  Also see her “Slavery-Entangled Philosophy: Does Locke’s Entanglement with Slavery Undermine his Philosophy?” AEON, September 12, 2018. https://aeon.co/essays/does-lockes-entanglement-with-slavery-undermine-his-philosophy

She published part of it as well in a 2010 paper (2013 edited volume) in an essay that explored how religious debates connected to definitions of who was an alien and could therefore be enslaved and connected these debates to ideas of attainder, or corrupted blood, as well as to hereditary status. See her “‘Baptized, Catechized, and Bred Christians’: Tracing Subjects, Slaves, Suffrage and Sovereignty through the religious debates of the Early British Atlantic” in Peter Onuf and Peter Thompson, eds., State and Citizen in British America and the Early United States, Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, March, 2013, 25-51. 

The roots of this project were in her first book; she noticed many refereces to slavery when reading debates over baptism  and debates over the nature of political power: See her 2001 paper (2003 publication)  “Power and Authority in the Colonial South: The English Legacy and its Contradictions,” in Britain and the American South: Encounters and Exchanges from the Colonial Times to the Present, University of Mississippi Press, 2003.

In 2012 she was co-organizer, with Peter Thompson, and with the support of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, of a conference on the Political Arithmetick of Empires.

See also her book review/forum on Kloppenberg's Towards Democracy.

For an interview about her first book please click here. For an interview about her AHR article and new book click here

Also, click here to see this interview with her about her research on her current book from when she was at NCSU and the National Humanities Center is 2010.

Professor Brewer is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and co-editor of the American Society for Legal History's book series as well as membership co-chair. In addition to the Guggenheim fellowship, she has received fellowships from the National Endowment for Humanities, the National Humanities Center, and the Huntington Library, among others.  She currently directs the History Honors program and is proud of her work protecting K-12 History Education in North Carolina in 2010, where she also served as state coordinator for the National Council for History Education. 

2101A

Francis Scott Key Hall

301-405-9442

hbrewer@umd.edu

2101A
Francis Scott Key Hall
301-405-9442