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Professor Emily West

Black and White image of Professor Emily West, looking relaxed with a sandy beach in the background

Research Division Lead for History Department

Areas of interest

I am broadly interested in issues of race and gender in American history and my research focusses on US slavery in the US South, especially the lives of enslaved women, the relationships between enslaved spouses, family life under enslavement, and affective ties between enslaved people and free people of colour. I am also interested in the history of infant and child feeding, including wet nursing.

Postgraduate supervision

Current supervision

  • Bill Smith (2020-) ‘The Weaponization of Dogs by US enslavers’.
  • Erin Shearer (AHRC SWW DTP funded studentship, 2019-), ‘Women of Violence: Challenging Perceptions of Enslaved Women’s Resistance in the Antebellum United States, 1815-1861

Previous PhD supervision:

  • Dr Aisha Djelid  (2019-2023)  “Slave Breeding” in the Antebellum United States’.
  • Dr Liz Barnes (AHRC SWW DTP funded studentship, 2016-2019), ‘Race and Sexual Assaults in the US South in Slavery and Reconstruction’. Selected to present the University Wide Annual PGR Fairbrother Public Lecture, ‘Women’s Voices, from Slavery to #MeToo’, May 2019.
  • Dr R.J. Knight (funded GTA studentship, 2014-2017), ‘Mother, Home, and Mammy: Motherhood, Race and Power in the Antebellum South’. Now a permanent lecturer at the University of Sheffield.
  • Dr Daniel Hale (p/t, 2011-2016), ‘Executive Clemency in Texas, 1849-1865’.
  • Dr Mike Luff (p/t, 2009-2014), ‘The Haitian Revolution and South Carolinian Statutes on Slavery and Free People of Colour, 1791-1823’.



Foundation Year: Contribution to ‘Ethics and Empathy’

Part One: Contribution to core modules; Part 1 Option: ‘Women in American History: From Slavery to Second Wave’

Part Two: Contribution to HS2HAD on enslaved people’s autobiographies, Part 2 Option: ‘'Race', Ethnicity and Citizenship in America’

Part 3: Special Subject: ‘Slavery in America’, Dissertation Supervision

I have supervised four Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP) studentships (R. J. Knight, Erin Shearer, Sian David, Jude Reeves)


Postgraduate MA (postgraduate taught)

Contribution to the MA in History: core modules: ‘Archival Silences’ and ‘Plantation Archaeology’; MA Option: ‘Slavery and Gender in the US’

Research centres and groups

  • Chair, British American Nineteenth Century Historians:
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
  • Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy

Awards and honours

External funding:

2022: BA Small grant for archival research trip to South Carolina

2021: Leverhulme Visiting Professorship Scheme (with Professor Maria Helena Machado, University of São Paulo).

2021: BA postdoctoral fellowship (with Dr Beth Wilson)

2020: Archie K. David Fellowship, North Caroliniana Society

2020: Mellon Fellowship: Virginia Historical Society

2020: Fellowship: Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello, Virginia

2020: Summersell Centre for the Study of the South (University of Alabama)

2019: Kentucky Historical Society Research Fellowship  

2019: Filson Historical Society (Kentucky) Research Fellowship

2019: BAAS Founders Award Research Travel Grant (for research in US)

2019: BAAS Conference Support to host annual SHAW (Society for the History of Women in the Americas) annual conference

2014: AHRC International Network Grant: Mothering Slaves: Comparative Perspectives on Motherhood, Childlessness, and the Care of Children in Atlantic Slave Societies. PI: Diana Paton (Edinburgh). Co-I Emily West (Reading). Steering group of Maria Helena P.T. Machado (São Paulo) and Camillia Cowling (Warwick). The network involved three conferences (Newcastle and São Paulo in 2015 and Reading, April 2016). The network’s outputs included two journal special editions, for which I am co-editor:

2013: Eccles Centre for American Studies Fellowship (based at the British Library)

2007: Leverhulme Trust Award to employ postdoctoral research assistant (Dr Laura Sandy)

2002: AHRB (research leave scheme)


2022: Invited member of Editorial Board, Journal of Southern History

2020: Contributor and member of editorial board: University of Oxford’s ‘America and Race: A Bibliography for UK History Undergraduates’.

2020: Invited member of Editorial Board, Gilder Lehrman Institute

2020: Invited member of Editorial Board, Journal of American Studies 

2019-22: Invited member: Southern Historical Association Membership Committee

2017-18: Committee member, IHR Doctoral Fellowships Scheme

2015-: Invited member of Editorial Board, Civil War History

2014-: Invited member of Editorial Board, Slavery & Abolition

2014: Prize winner: Reading Students' Union award for the best research-inspired teaching

Impactand Public engagement

Lowcountry Digital History Initiative Exhibition on enslaved women:

Massolit lecture series on enslaved women in the US:


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