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Robert G. Parkinson

Associate Professor
Ph.D. University of Virginia, 2005
Early America, American Revolution
Office: LT 616
Phone: 607-777-4416

My research interests are in early American history, especially the American Revolution. My book, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution (2016) explores how questions of race collided with pressing issues of nation building at the Founding. I argue that patriot political and communications leaders embraced the publication of war stories about resistant slaves, hostile Indians, and German mercenaries to define the British as the enemies of American freedom and bind the thirteen colonies together in a "common cause," a campaign that buried ideas of racial difference deeply in the foundation of the new nation. My current book project, The Heart of American Darkness, is a microhistory about how the grisly murder of nine Indians on a tributary of the Ohio River in 1774 exerted a surprisingly powerful influence in the political and rhetorical life of the early American republic.
My teaching interests include the American Revolution and Founding, Colonial America, history of American slavery, Native American history, nation-making and race in the early modern world.


  • The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, June 2016).
    • Winner, 2106 James A. Rawley Prize, best book on US Race Relations, Organization of American Historians (OAH).
    • Winner, 2016 Best Book Prize, History Division, Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC).
  • "Friends and Enemies in the Declaration of Independence," Jeffersonians in Power: Essays in Honor of Peter Onuf, Johann Neem & Joanne Freeman, eds. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, forthcoming).
  • "'Manifest Signs of Passion': The First Federal Congress, Antislavery, and Revolutionary Decisions about America's Identity," Contesting Slavery: The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation, John Craig Hammond and Matthew Mason, eds. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011), 49-68.
  • "The Declaration of Independence," Blackwell Companion to Thomas Jefferson, Frank Cogliano, ed. (London: Blackwell Publishing, 2011), 44-59.
  • "Print, the Press, and the American Revolution," Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, Jon Butler and Christopher Grasso, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • "Twenty-Seven Reasons for Independence" in Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America's Founding Document, Peter S. Onuf and Christian Dupont, eds. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008). * reprinted in The American Revolution Reader (Routledge Readers in History), Denver Brunsman and David Silverman, eds. (Routledge, 2013)
  • "War and the Imperative of Union," invited comment in Forum on David Waldstreicher and Staughton Lynd, "Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Slavery: Toward an Economic Interpretation of American Independence," William & Mary Quarterly 3rd series 68 (October 2011): 631-634.
  • "From Indian Killer to Worthy Citizen: The Revolutionary Transformation of Michael Cresap," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd series 63 (January 2006): 97-122.
  • "First from the Right: Massive Resistance and the Image of Thomas Jefferson in the 1950s," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 112 (July 2004): 2-34.

I have published book reviews in the Journal of American History, William & Mary Quarterly, Journal of Southern History, Journal of the Early Republic, Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Common-Place, Law & History Review and others.

Awards and Fellowships

Institute-NEH Postdoctoral Fellow, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg

I have held fellowships at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Rockefeller Library at Colonial Williamsburg, the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, the David Library of the American Revolution, the Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.

Last Updated: 12/13/17