Accessibility statement

Aaron Hiltner
Lecturer in the History of the United States of America



BA (Gustavus Adolphus College), PhD (Boston University)

Aaron Hiltner is a Lecturer in the History of the United States of America. His work focuses on the history of empire, ecology, foreign relations, the military, and masculinity.

Aaron’s first book Taking Leave, Taking Liberties: American Troops on the World War II Home Front (The University of Chicago Press, 2020) centres on civil-military conflict in the US mainland during World War II. His second book-length project examines American and British cowboys and ranchers who forged important economic, environmental, and cultural connections in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the US between 1865 and the mid 20th century.

He completed his PhD in History at Boston University in 2018. His dissertation received honourable mention from the SMH Coffman Prize. He previously taught at Boston University, Fitchburg State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University College London.



Aaron’s research examines the US in the world across the 19th century and into the 20th. He is interested in the structures of empire and capitalism and how they are created and enforced across borders.

Aaron’s first book Taking Leave, Taking Liberties: American Troops on the World War II Home Front (The University of Chicago Press, 2020) connects the US “home front” to the international history of civil-military conflict. Throughout the war, millions of American and Allied troops poured into stateside liberty ports like New York and Los Angeles. Emboldened by the privilege of their uniforms and near immunity from civilian laws and authorities, soldiers and sailors caroused, fought with locals, and regularly assaulted women. Military authorities invoked written and “unwritten” legal codes to effectively grant servicemen both extralegal and extraterritorial privileges. Taking Leave, Taking Liberties reframes this domestic history as part of an international history of occupations, sexual violence, and protest, while capturing how wartime control of civilian-military relations set the stage for the postwar extension of military power.

His second project explores the history of the cowboy, rancher, and the international beef trade. After 1865, American and British stockmen and cowpokes took forays abroad to promising cattle lands in Latin America, Australasia, and Southern Africa. They served as the on the ground guides for investment groups, packing companies, and governments looking to gain a foothold in key emerging beef markets like the Rio de la Plata basin. Part of the larger imperial struggle between the US and UK to seize key commodities and the “sinews” of economic, imperial, and ecological power in these regions, the chilled beef trade emerged as a crucial prize that cowboys might capture for their well-connected financiers. This competition formed part of a larger imperial effort to control the animals and ecology of subject nations and colonies.



An example of modules taught:

  • HIS00085C Knowledge and Belief in World History
  • HIS00173I Cotton, Cattle, and Cocaine: Commodities in the History of the Americas since 1750
  • HIS00220H The History of United States-Latin American Relations, 1800-Present 


An example of modules taught:



Contact details

Dr Aaron Hiltner
Vanbrugh College V/N/115
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Student hours

Semester 2 2023/4