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AB (Dartmouth College), MPhil (Cantab), PhD (Yale)
Amanda Behm is a lecturer in Modern History specializing in the intellectual and political history of imperial Britain and the British Empire. Her research interests include the early-nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries and include settler colonialism, historicism, international politics, and comparative imperial and anticolonial thought. Her teaching covers 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. She is currently working on two projects. The first, Parliamentary Empire: British Democracy and Settler Colonialism, c.1867-1939, is organised with David Thackeray (Exeter) and funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2021-24). Her second project explores collaboration, competition, and exchange between the British Empire and the American Pacific Coast after 1840, revealing how the transformation of the Pacific arena in the nineteenth century altered the political and cultural circuitry of Britain and its imperial worlds.
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 and policy dialogue, between 2012 and 2016. 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 is currently researching two projects. The primary strand is “Parliamentary Empire: British Democracy and Settler Colonialism, c.1867-1939” with David Thackeray (Exeter), funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2021-24). By exploring how different groups appealed to values of British parliamentarianism across connected imperial contexts, this research illuminates vast debates about democratic governance, political inclusion, representation, deliberation, and agency within a fractious British Empire. This archive-based study investigates (among other sources) digitised newspapers, private papers, petitions to parliament, and records of parliamentary debates across national contexts. We see these approaches as providing new insight into how distinct constituencies across the UK and empire as a whole perceived and negotiated a shared parliamentary culture nonetheless crosscut by projects of exclusion and racial segregation, and pursued projects of claims-making and subversion with no lesser end than the remaking of "British" tradition.
Amanda is also working on a second monograph exploring how a distinctive concept of the Anglo-American “West” emerged through British engagement with the U.S. Pacific Coast in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It reconstructs forgotten patterns of exchange, collaboration, and competition from 1846 through the early twentieth century, with mid-Victorian excitement over the US annexation of California and California’s growth serving as a window onto wider 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 discrimination and anti-Asian exclusion.
Amanda’s first book, Imperial History and the Global Politics of Exclusion: Britain, 1880-1940 (Palgrave 2018), examined 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 "subject" empire. It argued that these campaigns defined the course of U.K., imperial, and U.S. institutions while relegating vast populations to the shadows of the past and laying 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.
At York, Amanda supervises Masters and doctoral dissertations on intellectual, cultural, and political questions in British, imperial, U.S., and transnational fields, from the eighteenth through late-twentieth centuries. She would welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduates interested in this range of fields, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.