Accessibility statement

Research activities at the YCA

The YCA is committed to developing a wide array of research activities focused on the history of the Americas. As well as publishing for academic and popular audiences, staff at the Centre maintain active links with a broader network of historians, engage in public engagement activities and run scholarly conferences and symposia. We also have a wide array of electronic and paper-based library resources available to scholars interested in studying the Americas.

We are eager to develop links with partner institutions across the world and would encourage interested parties to get in touch to find out more about potential opportunities for collaboration and exchange.

Core staff

Henrice Altink is a Reader in the Department of History. Her research focuses on race in the British Caribbean. Her first book Representations of Slave Women in Discourses on Slavery and Abolition, 1780-1838 examined representations of Jamaican slave women in pro- and antislavery writings.

Her second book Destined for a Life of Service: Defining African-Jamaican Womanhood, 1865-1938 also explores race's intersection with gender. Drawing upon a wide range of primary materials, including court testimonies, folk tales, and oral history, it looks at the lives of the second-and later generations of African-Jamaican women born in freedom, in particular their engagement with messages about marriage, motherhood, sexuality, work and citizenship.

Henrice Altink is currently researching a monograph that looks at racial discrimination in Jamaica in the era of decolonisation (1918-1980). It not only maps the multiple and often covert forms of discrimination in such areas as the labour market and education but also assesses the ways in which African Jamaicans themselves were implicated in a system that defined them as second-class citizens on account of their skin colour.  

Henrice also has an interest in the medical history of the Caribbean. She has published on maternal and child welfare and mental health in interwar Jamaica, and on BCG vaccination in the post-war Caribbean. She currently leads a British Academy-funded international research network on public health policies and practices in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Lawrence Black is a Professor in the Department of History. He works on the history of modern US consumerism and the US comparatively with the UK and Europe. He is writing a book about the history of shopping in the US and UK since 1899 entitled. Are you being Served? He has held visiting positions at: American University in Washington DC; Duke University; Westminster College, Missouri (Fulbright); and the Center for European Studies at Harvard.

Sabine Clarke is a Lecturer in the Department of History. Sabine is a historian of science and imperialism who looks at the place of science and technology in British plans for colonial and post-colonial development. She is particularly interested in the relationship between scientific research and economic and social development.

Sabine is currently writing her first book New Uses for Sugar: Visions of Industrial Development for the British West Indies. The book shows that rather than working to purposively frustrate economic diversification as has often been claimed, British policy after 1940 for the Caribbean embodied a radical vision of industrial development in which science was key.

Her next project, which is in its early stages, expands on the theme of science and development identified in her project on the West Indies. It compares the development, marketing and deployment of DDT and other synthetic insecticided for farming and disease control in Britain and its colonies during the twentieth century.

Helen Cowie is a Lecturer in the Department of History and a member of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. Her research focuses on the cultural history of science with a particular focus on the history of animals.

Helen's doctoral research explored the study of natural history in the Spanish Empire in the years 1750-1850. During this period, Spain made strenuous efforts to survey, inventory and exploit the natural productions of its overseas possessions, choreographing a series of scientific expeditions to the New World and cultivating and displaying American fauna, flora and minerals in metropolitan gardens and museums.

Helen uses animals as a vehicle through which to examine issues of race, class, gender and colonialism. She focuses especially on travelling menageries, whose appeal transcended social and geographic boundaries and whose personnel included an eclectic range of individuals, from female lion tamers to West Indian elephant keepers.


David Huyssen is a Lecturer in the Department of History, and a historian of the United States. His first book, Progressive Inequality: Rich and Poor in New York, 1890-1920 (Harvard, 2014), offers a critical reassessment of the Progressive Era in America, telling stories of wealthy and working-class men and women whose collisions with each other in the salons, settlement houses, and streets of New York gave shape to the age. His interests encompass all aspects of U.S. political economy and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. He has held visiting faculty positions or fellowships at: Eugene Lang College the New School for Liberal Arts; Wesleyan University; Yale University; and N.Y.U. Gallatin School of Individualized Study.


Shaul Mitelpunkt is a lecturer in American History. He specializes in cultural history, and his research interests include U.S. and the World, war and society, as well as gender and masculinity. He is currently completing a book entitled America and the Fighting State: the Cultural Politics of U.S.-Israeli Relations, 1958-1986 (under review). His recent article 'The Tank Driver who Ran with Poodles' has appeared in a Special Issue of Gender and History entitled Gender, Imperialism, and Global Exchange.

Shaul has joined the department at York in 2015 having taught at Northwestern University and at the University of Chicago in the USA.

is anniversary professor in the Department of History. He is a Russian historian by training and most of his publications concern Russian and Ukrainian social and environmental history. In recent years, however, he has developed his interests to include transnational environmental history, with a particular focus on the USA. While researching the environmental history of the steppe region of Russia and Ukraine, American colleagues pointed him towards a series of direct connections with the Great Plains region of the USA. The Great Plains have a similar environment and environmental history to the steppes, with the important difference that the steppes were settled and ploughed up by farmers before the Great Plains underwent the same process.

Thus, and contrary to what we might expect, the Americans learned from prior experience in Russia and Ukraine. Assisted by migrants from the steppes to the Great Plains and contacts between American and Russian scientists, farmers on the Great Plains grew varieties of crops and used farming methods from the steppes. Moreover, the US Dept of Agriculture drew on forestry techniques and soil science devised on the steppes.

In recent years, David has spent as much time conducting field work and research in the USA as he has in Russia and Ukraine. It is not a coincidence, moreover, that he began his career at the University of Texas at Austin, at the southern end of the Great Plains, and long intended to work on a Russian-American project. He holds a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship in 2015-17 to research and write up his project on the ‘Amerikan steppes’.

Shane O'Rourke is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History. Originally a social historian of Russia, he has now broadened his interests to become a historian of Brazil.

His current work compares the emancipation of servile labour in both countries in the second half of the nineteenth century. This will be the first work to compare explicitly Brazil and Russia. As part of this project, he is working on two royal women, Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna and Princess Isabel of Brazil, and their role in the emancipation of servile labour. An article on Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna was published in Autumn 2011 in The Russian Review.

Further academic expertise

Students interested in American history may also draw upon the expertise of other members of the History Department. In addition to British and European history, York's historians teach and publish on Russia, South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East. Students are encourage to think imaginatively about the possibilities for transnational research, and to make connections between American themes and broader historical themes and processes.

American history is also well served by York’s vibrant culture of interdisciplinary exchange: students may become closely involved in the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies and the Centre for Modern Studies, while graduates can get involved with the vibrant research environment at the Humanities Research Centre.