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Holly Brewer

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Burke Chair of American Cultural and Intellectual History and Associate Professor, History

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Research Expertise

United States

Holly Brewer is Burke Professor of American History and Associate Professor at the University of Maryland. She is a specialist in early American history and the early British empire as well as early modern debates about justice. 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. is currently finishing a book that examines the origins of American slavery in larger political and ideological debates: it is tentatively entitled " Slavery & Sovereignty in Early America and the British Empire,” for which she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014. She 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). 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

Her books and articles have won many prizes in history and legal history. These include (for By Birth or Consent) 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. For  "Entailing Aristocracy in Colonial Virginia" (1997), 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, and for  "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 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

For more about her work, see 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. For her November 2020 lecture on “Salutary Neglect: Reconsidering Empire” click here.