Squatters, Statesmen, and the Rupture of American Democracy, 1830-1860
Fall 2018 Kinder Institute Friday Colloquium Series
A bi-annual tradition for all incoming postdocs during their first semester on campus, John Suval, the 2018-19 Postdoctoral Fellow in American Political History, will introduce the Kinder Institute community to his research in a fall colloquium on western land squatting and the rupture of union in antebellum America. Free and open to the public, Prof. Suval’s talk will be held on October 26, at 3:30pm in Jesse Hall 410.
This talk explores how white squatters on western lands came to occupy a central and destabilizing position in U.S. political culture in the decades leading up to the Civil War. Historians have highlighted the link between westward expansion and intensifying sectional conflicts over slavery. Few, however, have noted the shadowy figure of the squatter standing at the forward edge of U.S. territorial conquests and the center of clashes that sparked disunion. Tracking squatters across antebellum America offers new perspectives on how the nation grew into a continent-spanning juggernaut and how Jacksonian political culture cohered and came apart.
John Suval earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include Jacksonian political culture, the American West, public lands, and the nature of democracy, and his dissertation—“Dangerous Ground: Squatters, Statesmen, and the Rupture of American Democracy, 1830-1860”—explores how white squatters on western lands came to occupy a central and destabilizing position in U.S. political culture in the decades leading up to the Civil War. John’s work has appeared in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, Wisconsin Magazine of History, and numerous other publications. He has received support for his research from the Bancroft Library, University of Chicago Library’s Special Collections Research Center, Kansas State Historical Society, Library Company of Philadelphia, Oregon Historical Society, and other institutions. He joins the Kinder Institute as a 2018-19 Postdoctoral Fellow in Political History.