Christa Dierksheide

Associate Professor, Brockman Foundation Jefferson Scholars Foundation Professor

Nau 384
Office Hours: Thursdays 11-12:30PM and by appointment

Field & Specialties

Early Republic; Slavery and Race; Empire and State Formation; Public History


BA, University of Virginia, English Literature.

PhD, University of Virginia, History.


I am a historian of Early America with an emphasis on empire, race, and slavery.  I'm particularly interested in recent efforts to globalize studies of the Early American Republic.  

My first book,  _Amelioration and Empire: Progress and Slavery in the Plantation Americas, 1770-1840_ (Virginia, 2014) brought the Anglophone Caribbean and the U.S. South into the same frame, arguing that "improvement" lay at the core of both proslavery and antislavery thinking.  I followed that work with several essays and chapters on Jefferson, race, and slavery.  Right now, I'm completing a global history of Jefferson's grandchildren on both sides of the color line.  I follow several members of the Randolph and Hemings families to construct nuanced portraits of important events and issues that shaped nineteenth-century America: the internal slave trade, western expansion and land speculation, Anglo-American empire-building in the Atlantic and Pacific worlds, and unfreedom and racism in the antebellum North.  Shortly, I'll be pivoting to my third book project--a co-authored book on Jefferson and slavery (with Nick Guyatt).  As the first study to fully examine the topic in 40 years, we hope to scrutinize all of Jefferson's myriad "solutions" to the problem of slavery, most of which rested on Black exclusion or erasure.

I'm also committed to public history.  Before returning to academia, I worked as Historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.  I have curated or contributed to several exhibitions at Monticello, including _The Boisterous Sea of Liberty_(2008), _Mulberry Row: Landscape of Slavery_(2012), and _Sally Hemings: A Life_ (2018).

I'm enthusiastic about working with creative and enterprising Early Americanist grad students (all co-advised with my colleague Prof. Max Edelson).  The center of the Early Americanist program at UVA is the Early American Seminar--a dynamic workshop that meets several times each semester at Monticello to consider students' articles and dissertation chapters in-progress.  I co-direct the EAS with Prof. Max Edelson and Prof. Alan Taylor.

At UVA, I teach courses on Jefferson, public history, and slavery in the Founding Era.





Jefferson's Rising Generation: the Hemingses and Randolphs in America and the World, 1820-1900 (under contract with Yale University Press).

Amelioration and Empire: Progress and Slavery in the Plantation Americas, 1770-1840 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014).

Articles and Book Chapters

“The Antebellum Era,” in Nicholas Guyatt, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of the United States, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

“Border Control: Slavery, Diffusion, and State Formation in the Era of the Missouri Crisis,” in John Craig Hammond and Jeffrey L. Pasley, eds., A Fire-Bell in the Past: Reassessing the Missouri Crisis of 1819-1821, forthcoming from University of Missouri Press.

“Creating a Treaty-Unworthy State: Anglo-Americans in China in the Age of Jefferson,” in Francis D. Cogliano and Patrick Griffin, eds., Ireland and America: Revolution and Empire (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, forthcoming).

“US and Empire in the Nineteenth Century,” Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History, ed. Trevor Burnard, 2020.

“Slavery in Jefferson’s Worlds,” in Andrew Bibby and Dustin Gish, eds., Jefferson and His Contemporaries (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020).

“Slave Hiring at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello,” in Lawrence Aje, Catherine Armstrong, and Lydia Plath, eds., The Many Faces of Slavery: New Perspectives on Slave Ownership in the Americas (London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2019).

“’Taking Root Deeper Than Ever:’ Jeffersonians and Slavery,” in Joanne B. Freeman and Johann N. Neem, eds., Jeffersonians in Power (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019).

“John Gladstone’s Empire,” La Questione Romantica, vol. 7, no. 1-2 (Dec. 2015): 75-83.

 “Slave-holding Nation, Slave-holding Civilization,” (co-authored with Peter Onuf), in John McCardell and William Cooper, eds., In the Cause of Liberty: How the Civil War Redefined American Ideals (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009), 9-24.

“’The great improvement and civilization of that race’: Jefferson, Slavery, and the Amelioration of Virginia, ca. 1770-1826,” Journal of Early American Studies (Spring 2008): 165-197.

“Missionaries, Evangelical Identity, and the Religious Ecology of Early Nineteenth-Century South Carolina and the British Caribbean,” American Nineteenth Century History 7.1 (March 2006): 63-88.

Courses Taught

HIUS 3559: Jefferson's America: Race, Law, and Politics

HIUS 4501: Slavery and the Founders

HIST 5559: Public History

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Christa Dierksheide