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School of History

Dr Joanna Cohen


Senior Lecturer in American History

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8363
Room Number: ArtsTwo 4.10


I gained my BA from Cambridge and my MA from Northwestern University before moving to Philadelphia in 2003 to do my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania.
Living in the city where the United States was born fostered my fascination with the history of American citizenship; research in New York furthered my love of Manhattan’s historic department stores.


Research Interests:

My first book, Luxurious Citizens: Consumption and Civic Belonging in Nineteenth Century America, (Penn Press, 2017) charts the creation of the citizen-consumer in the US before the Civil War. It reveals how merchants, manufacturers, retailers, advertiser and shoppers themselves attempted to define civic virtue through both personal and national shopping habits, resulting in a vision of citizenship that to this day positions consumption as an American virtue and entitlement. 
My new work focuses on the ways in which Americans experienced loss in the nineteenth century. I explore how new capitalist, bureaucratic and commercial technologies shaped people’s emotional understanding of losing their homes, possessions and environments.
I am also working on a project that explores how people “came to terms” with the ends of conflicts in the Atlantic World. Privileging visual and material culture as a source, this project asks how people made their peace with violence and war through the things and images they had in their lives.

  • US Citizenship
  • Consumption and Consumerism in the Atlantic World
  • American Capitalism and Political Economy
  • Visual and Material Culture in the US





I welcome applications from candidates wishing to pursue doctoral research in the following areas:

  • Nineteenth Century American History especially:
  • Capitalism
  • Consumption and consumer culture
  • Culture, visual culture

Current PHD Students

  • Connie Thomas – The Emergence of Federal Migration Politics and Policy in the United States, c.1776-1802