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Catherine A. Molineux

Associate Professor of History

Catherine A. J. Molineux is Associate Professor of History, Director of Graduate Studies, and Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow (2016-2018) at Vanderbilt University. She holds a Ph.D. (2005) and an M. A. (2003) from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. History (with Honors)/ B.S. (Microbiology) from the University of Texas at Austin, summa cum laude. Trained in history, literary criticism, and art history, her interdisciplinary scholarship focuses on the history of the early modern British Atlantic (including early North America and the Caribbean, Britain, and West Africa), with special emphasis on visual culture and on race, slavery, and empire. She published Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Imperial Slavery in Imperial Britain (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012) and is working on a new book, tentatively entitled The Making of Kings: African Sovereignty in the British Atlantic World, with support from a 2013-14 ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship and Vanderbilt’s Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowship (2016-2018).
     Her scholarship has been generously funded by fellowships and awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, The Huntington Library (special thanks to the Barbara Thom fellowship foundation), The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, The Clark Memorial Library at the University of California, Los Angeles, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Texas at Austin.
     In current news, Professor Molineux is co-directing (with Dr. Laura Carpenter, Department of Sociology) the 2017-2018 Warren Center for the Humanities interdisciplinary faculty seminar on “Telling Stories: Modes, Media, and Meanings” (applications for the postdoctoral position associated with this seminar are due to the Warren Center on Jan 18, 2017, see She also co-directs (with Dr. Teresa Goddu, Department of English) the Environmental Humanities Seminar, which is currently looking for stellar performance artists engaged with climate change and its multi-disciplinary histories. Finally, as part of the Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowship, she is organizing an exhibition at Vanderbilt’s Fine Arts Gallery entitled “The Afterlives of Slavery,” hopefully forthcoming Spring 2018.


Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic Slavery in Imperial Britain (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, January 2012) 

Faces of Perfect Ebony explores African slavery in Britain 1660-1807, the era in which Britain became the leading slave trading nation in Europe. The vast majority of the three million Africans transported by British merchants found themselves in the Americas, yet the social and cultural impact of slave-owning in Britain itself far outweighed the thousands who came to reside in London and other British ports. My book reconstructs how common Britons thought about and negotiated their relationship to the slave trade and the rise of colonial slavery by recovering both the social practice of slavery in Britain, which derived from European patterns of aristocratic domestic service, and the thousands of images of black slaves found in shop signs, advertisements, engravings, pottery, textiles, plays, novellas, pamphlets and other cultural forms. Addressing the historical contexts that supported domestic and colonial African slavery in Britain, the book offers an Atlantic history of Britain as a slave-owning, slave-trading periphery to the centers of slavery in the Caribbean and southern North America and a cultural history of the development of ideas about empire, racial difference, and human trafficking. 

The Making of Kings: African Sovereignty in the British Atlantic World (in progress) offers a circum-Atlantic history of the origins of comparative political thought in Britain and the de-sacralization of sovereignty.

Articles and Book Chapters

• “Making the Middle Passage: Maritime Dimensions of Abolitionist Debate,” in Peter C. Mancall and Carole Shammas, eds., Governing the Sea in the Early Modern Era (San Marino: Huntington Library Press, 2015), 275-309.
• “Europe and Africa.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History. Ed. Trevor Burnard. New York: Oxford University Press, November 2014.
• “False Gifts/Exotic Fictions: Epistemologies of Sovereignty and Assent in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko,” English Literary History 80.2 (Summer 2013): 455-488.
• “Pleasures of the Smoke: ‘Black Virginians’ in Georgian London’s Tobacco Shops,” William & Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, 64. 2 (Apr 2007): 327-376.
o Received the 2008 James L. Clifford Prize, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies’ annual award given for the best article on an eighteenth-century subject from any discipline.
• “Hogarth’s Fashionable Slaves: Moral Corruption in Eighteenth-Century London,” English Literary History, Special Issue (Jun 2005): 495-520.

Undergraduate Courses

American History: Discovery to Revolution
North American Colonial History to 1763
The Birth of Capitalism and Human Trafficking
London: From Roman Camp to Brexit
Pirates, Plantations, and Power: The English Atlantic World, 1500-1688
The Art of Empire
History of Early America
New Worlds, New Bodies: Gender and Sex in Colonial America
Race and Representation in Britain and Colonial America
(coming soon) Sustainable Empires: Ecologies of Colonial British America

Graduate Courses

Introduction to Historical Methods and Research
Readings in American History to the Civil War
Studies in Comparative History: Visual Culture
British Political Thought in Atlantic Perspective
West Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade
Commerce and Culture in Early America
Urban British Atlantic History
Race and Slavery in the British Atlantic World