Dr Stephen Tuffnell

Dr Stephen Tuffnell

I arrived in Oxford as an undergraduate from East Yorkshire in 2005 and was excited by the huge variety of courses to study, ranging from Medieval Britain to modern day China. I was especially drawn towards the history of the United States by inspirational teachers, who I was fortunate to continue working with at postgraduate level. My research focuses on the United States’ global connections in the nineteenth century, which allows me to continue exploring the histories of nations and empires around the globe and the development of the modern world. Tutorials continue to excite my love of the past, and I am thrilled by the frequent, often surprising, connections that arise between teaching and research. 


At St Peter’s, I teach the history of the United States from 1776 to the present day. This includes both tutorials and lectures on topics including the American Revolution, American westward expansion in the 1840s, the U.S. women’s movement, and American imperialism in the Pacific and Americas among many others. Undergraduate dissertations are one of the highlights of my teaching year and I have supervised topics as diverse as the foreign policy of John Adams, the South African gold rush of 1887, and the politics of “Grunge” music in the 1990s. I also convene the third-year Special Subject ‘Slavery and the Crisis of the Union’, in which we explore the history of slavery, emancipation and the American Civil War through the primary sources that shaped these events. 


My primary research interests are in the transnational histories of US imperialism, foreign relations, and migration across the nineteenth century. In particular, I am interested in American expatriation, the history of commodities such as gold and ice, and in rethinking the geography of the American Empire in the late-nineteenth century. I am a co-convenor of the American History Research Seminar, which is held at the Rothermere American Institute.

I am preparing my first book The American Invaders: Nation and Empire in Britain’s American Community for publication. It examines the centrality of the American diaspora in Britain to the transfer of goods, capital, and culture across the Atlantic between the Revolution and the First World War.  

My next project focuses on the history of the American professional diaspora in the British Empire since 1865. It focuses on American communities in Southern Africa (South Africa and present day Zimbabwe), British East Africa, Sudan, Australia, and Burma (to name a few). American gold miners, railway engineers, consuls, merchants, and missionaries collaborated with the British Empire in diverse and surprising ways and have proven a fruitful way to reorient the history of the United States in the late nineteenth century around global historical contexts. 

Featured Publication 

A Global History of Gold Rushes, ed. B. Mountford and S. Tuffnell (University of California Press, 2018)