I am a scholar of political economy, landscape, and culture in modern Britain and its Empire. While my first book on state-building and infrastructure in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain (Roads to Power, Harvard 2012), my work has steadily moved forward in time and broader in geography to focus on the history of British ideas about property rights, land law, and agronomy in international governance and development conversations in the nineteenth and twentieth century, a story about lawyers, map-makers, and peasant rebellions since 1870 that stretches from Ireland to India. The transnational range and institutional breadth of this story have forced me to turn to digital methods, because of which I have become a designer and developer of software for historians, in particular, Paper Machines, a free toolkit for historians who wish to perform a “distant reading” of large-scale textual corpora, particularly those associated with modern institutions like Parliament or the World Bank, by using algorithms to visualize how the official mind’s concerns change over time and space.
I am an assistant professor of history at Brown University. Born in Dallas, Texas, I received my AB from Harvard University, and then studied at Trinity College, Cambridge before completing my PhD in History at the University of California, Berkeley, after which I continued on to postdocs at the University of Chicago and the Harvard Society of Fellows. I specialize in the history of capitalism, land use, and the design of computational tools for visualizing large numbers of texts, for instance, Paper Machines, released in 2012-3 with the collaboration of Christopher Johnson-Roberson.
My next monograph, The Long Land War, will tell the story of international land reform movements from the Irish land war to Movimiento sin Tierra, lingering on legal reformers and civil servants, London's dredlocked squatters and their accidental influence on World Bank Policy, and the genesis of participatory mapping from Georgist uprisings through radical coders in contemporary Chennai.
My first book, Roads to Power (Harvard University Press, 2011), tells the story of how Britain built the first nation connected by infrastructure and technology caused strangers to stop speaking on the public street.