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AB (Dartmouth College), MPhil (Cantab), PhD (Yale)
Amanda Behm is Lecturer in Modern History specializing in the intellectual and political history of imperial Britain and the British Empire. Her research interests cover the early-nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries and include settler colonialism, historicism, international relations, and comparative imperial and anticolonial political thought. Her teaching interests extend these emphases from the early modern era to the present.
Amanda’s first book, Imperial History and the Global Politics of Exclusion: Britain, 1880-1940, examined late-Victorian models of human difference rooted in historical scholarship and ideas about time, and traced how those models contributed to segregationist practices on a global scale. Her second project takes up the global significance of collaboration, competition, and exchange between the British Empire and the American Pacific Coast after the mid-nineteenth century. Her research has been funded by the British Academy, the Institute of Historical Research, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the National History Center in Washington, DC.
Amanda joined the department at York in 2016 having taught at Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley. At Yale, she was also Associate Director of International Security Studies, a center supporting international history research and policy dialogue, between 2012 and 2016.
Amanda’s book Imperial History and the Global Politics of Exclusion: Britain, 1880-1940 (Palgrave 2018) explores the potent exchange between historical thought and racial politics in the modern British Empire. Specifically, it examines the rise of the discipline of imperial history in Britain and related webs of policy advocacy through which intellectuals and politicians designed fields of knowledge and deployed historical models to promote Anglo-Saxon settler colonialism at the expense of reform or integration for the subject empire. It argues that, ultimately, such exclusionary campaigns relegated vast populations to the shadows of the past and laid a precarious political and moral framework for late imperial rule and decolonization. Related projects include article-length elaborations on: anticolonial challenges to settler historicism and competing visions of imperial belonging; and the political significance of Magna Carta as a motif and conceit in late- and post-colonial debates about liberty, rule of law, and multiculturalism across Britain and empire.
Amanda is now working on a second monograph, Albion Pacific: California and the Contested Frontiers of Imperial Britain. This research, funded in its initial stage by a British Academy/Leverhulme small project grant, reconstructs patterns of exchange, collaboration, and competition between Britain, British colonies, and the American Pacific Coast in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In doing so, it reframes existing models of British imperial history by actively querying the modern divergence between authoritarian and settler-democratic forms of empire. It takes mid-Victorian excitement over U.S. annexation California and the polity’s growth as a window onto the changing structural and moral calculations of a generation wracked by global turbulence. Among the subjects it tracks are British imperial campaigners working with Californian settlement reformers and entrepreneurs; Californian scouts and resource experts in Southern Africa and Australia; celebrity scribes who enshrined the myth of a post-frontier Anglo-Saxon golden age; and emergent, mutually referent legal and civic regimes of racial exclusion. The resulting book will scrutinize those multiple visions and their geopolitical implications, not least of all as events on the Pacific Coast merged with those across the British Empire to fuel wider anticolonialism and revisionist challenges to international order.
At York, Amanda has supervised a variety of MA and MRes dissertations on British, imperial, international, and diplomatic history from the eighteenth century through the Cold War, with particular emphases on the links between ideas, strategy, and political practice. She would welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduates interested in these and related fields.