Crafting Narratives of Empire: Contested Roots of Revolution in the Long 18th Century

Crafting Narratives of Empire: Contested Roots of Revolution in the Long Eighteenth Century

Hosted by the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies (ITPS) at Iona University and the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri.

Virtually and in New Rochelle, New York

September 22nd – 24th, 2022

*Special thanks to the Robert David Lion Gardner Foundation and the Kinder Institute for supporting this conference*

How do eighteenth-century narratives of empire still echo in our historiography and imaginations today? First coined in 1775, “salutary neglect” was one example which painted the first half of the eighteenth century as a period of declining British imperial engagement and increasing colonial independence. While assumptions of salutary neglect still permeate much of late eighteenth-century and revolutionary scholarship, scholars of the early eighteenth century have pushed back on this very narrative to uncover an imperial state far more actively engaged in North American colonial affairs long before the Seven Years’ War. “Iroquois Empire” was another example that emerged in the eighteenth century, built upon a real or imagined past of Iroquois conquest, confirmed by treaty and policy, and perpetuated by early historians. While it has receded in recent decades, scholars have turned to yet other Indigenous groups and polities, again through the lens of empire.

These are just two of many narratives of empire that scholars have sought to reassess, with recent work on North America and the Atlantic pushing us still further in comparative, entangled, and contested directions. In this continued spirit, we aim to bring together scholars from both halves of the eighteenth century to reexamine imperial rule and how narratives of empire were wielded and debated during the colonial, revolutionary, and early republican eras. We welcome work on either side of the Atlantic to reconnect and reconsider these histories and historiographies.

The Fifth International Conference of Thomas Paine Studies at Iona University is a collaboration between the ITPS and the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri. “Crafting Narratives of Empire” is a hybrid program, with virtual and in-person components on the Iona campus in New Rochelle, located just outside New York City in Westchester County. Dr. Steven Pincus of the University of Chicago will deliver the keynote address and Dr. Elizabeth Ellis of Princeton University will open the conference with a talk on her forthcoming book, The Great Power of Small Nations: Indigenous Diplomacy in the Gulf South.

Details from the Call For Papers:

With this hybrid format, the organizers welcome a range of presentations that both relate to the conference theme and beyond. Presentations can take the form of individual papers, posters, lightening talks, or non-traditional presentations (including film or other creative works), and pre-formed panels and roundtables. Our goal is for the program to be as interdisciplinary as possible. Building on the collaborative work underway at the ITPS and at Kinder, we encourage submissions across disciplinary boundaries, including history, political science, philosophy, literature, geography, communications, art history and performing arts, public history and museum studies, data science, library and information science, and the digital humanities. Presentations that consider the conference theme in relation to race, gender, and/or local New York history are especially of interest.

Scholars of all levels are invited to apply from any disciplinary or professional background. If needed, support to attend the conference in-person or virtually may be available. Please include a 250-word prospectus and a one-page curriculum vitae together in one document labeled with the applicant or session organizer’s last name, with participant name (s), paper title, affiliations (if applicable), and email address at the top of the first page of the proposal. Participants may receive some financial support for travel and lodging expenses. Applicants should e-mail their proposals to by January 15th, 2022. For more information on the ITPS, please see: or follow on twitter @theitps. For more information on the Kinder Institute, please see: or follow on twitter @mudemocracy. For other conference updates, follow #ITPSKinderCon.