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Kevin Vanzant, PhD

Kevin Vanzant studies ideas in history.  His current research examines the English colonies in North America during the 17th and 18th centuries, with particular attention paid to the concept of freedom.  His work sees “freedom” more as an instrument of the state than as a natural right.  From this perspective, Dr. Vanzant is beginning to chart a new history of the origins of freedom in North America, one that does a better job of explaining, for instance, the coexistence of freedom and slavery, long thought to be a great paradox in US history.  With a better understanding of what freedom actually meant in early America, Dr. Vanzant’s research argues that it was, in fact, never really a paradox at all.

Outside of his historical research, Dr. Vanzant is very interested in figuring out better ways to teach history.  The number of college students majoring in history across the country is at an all-time low.  As any nation-wide survey will tell you, students currently do not see much value in a history degree, so they, not surprisingly, are making the decision to pursue other majors.  Dr. Vanzant is determined to change this.  He believes that history as an academic subject is not dated.  The way we often teach it, however, may be.  In this, he gives the complaints of students some credit.  As a result, Dr. Vanzant’s classes are very experimental.  He welcomes feedback from students about what works and what doesn’t and is always open to trying new approaches in the classroom.  He sees historical instruction as incredibly versatile and believes it should have little difficulty adjusting and adapting to the various interests of today’s students.

Please click here for Professor Vanzant's Academia.edu website


PhD, History, Vanderbilt University, 2013

MA, History, Vanderbilt University, 2011

BA, Economics, University of Virginia, 2001

Courses Taught

Slavery and Liberty in US History; American History to 1877; American History since 1877; World History to 1700; World History post 1700

Research Interests

Early American History; Atlantic World; Comparative Abolitionism; Comparative Slavery; Colonialism; British Empire; Political Thought

Selected Publications

“Rounding out the US Survey Course: The Idea of Schema Disruption in the History Classroom” (Manuscript)

“Rethinking Colonial Freedoms: Benjamin Worsley, English Mercantilism, and the Economic Argument for Self-Government in early Virginia, 1649-1661” (Draft)

“Political Fragmentation in Early Maryland and the Imperial Origins of North American Liberalism" Journal of American Political Thought (Winter 2016)

Review of Prelude to Revolution: The Salem Gunpowder Raid of 1775, by Peter C. Hoffer.  H-War, H-Net Reviews (December 2014)

Review of Rustic Warriors: Warfare and the Provincial Soldier on the New England Frontier, 1689-1748, by Steven C. Eames.  H-War, H-Net Reviews (March 2013)

Review of For Liberty and the Republic: The American Citizen as Soldier, 1775-1861, by Ricardo A. Herrera. H-War, H-Net Reviews (Forthcoming)