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Durham University

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Dr Kevin Waite

Assistant Professor (Modern American History) in the Department of History

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Kevin Waite is a political historian of the 19th century United States with a focus on slavery, imperialism, and the American West. His first book, West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire (UNC Press, 2021), is a study of slaveholding expansion in California and the Far Southwest. It explores how American Southerners extended their labour order and political vision across the continent, and in the process, triggered a series of conflicts that culminated in the Civil War. His next book project, co-authored with Prof. Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania), reconstructs the life and times of Biddy Mason, a Georgia slave-turned-California real estate entrepreneur. Their work, ‘The Long Road to Freedom: Biddy Mason and the Making of Black Los Angeles’, is funded by a three-year collaborative research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Kevin’s scholarly articles and book chapters have covered a wide range of subjects: manliness in Napoleonic-era English public schools; the political struggle over America’s first transcontinental railroad; the evolving myth of George Armstrong Custer in Hollywood film; the Civil War in Indian Territory; Reconstruction in the trans-Mississippi West; and the Confederate monuments of 20th-century California.

Kevin comments frequently on American history and politics for major media outlets. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington PostSlate, The New Republic, the Conversation, TIME, and the Washington Post, among others. He has also spoken about his research on television and radio, including interviews with BBC Radio 3, LBC, Metro Radio, National Public Radio in the U.S., and as a talking head for television documentaries on Channel 5 and the Yesterday Channel. For links to his articles, media appearances, and c.v., click here.

Kevin received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. He also holds degrees from the University of Cambridge (MPhil, Modern European History, 2011) and Williams College (BA, History, English, 2009).

PhD supervision

Kevin welcomes inquiries from prospective students working on a broad range of topics in U.S. history, especially those interested in the American Civil War era, the history of slavery and emancipation, and the American West.

Research Groups

Department of History

Research Projects

Department of History


Chapter in book

  • Waite, Kevin (Forthcoming). 'The West and Reconstruction after the American Civil War'. In The Oxford Handbook on Reconstruction. Slap, Andrew L., ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Waite, Kevin (2019). 'Custer's Last Stands: Remaking an American Frontier Legend in Hollywood Film'. In Writing History with Lightning: Representations of Nineteenth Century America on Film. Inscoe, J. & Hulbert, M., eds. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Waite, Kevin (2019). 'War in Indian Country'. In The Cambridge History of the American Civil War. Sheehan-Dean, A., ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1.

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article


Teaching Areas

  • HIST 1611 The Rise and Fall of American Slavery
  • HIST 2922 Conversations with History: Making America's Empire, 1776-1914
  • HIST 30N3 Special Subject: The American Civil War and Reconstruction