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Atlanta Distinguished Professor of Southern Culture

Curriculum Vitae


AB Brown University, 1971
PhD Northwestern University, 1976

Research Interests

Harry Watson’s research interests lie in the political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the United States between the Revolution and the Civil War, with special attention to the antebellum South and Jacksonian America. His work has explored the intersection of social, economic, and political change in this period, the formation of political parties, the influence of market development on political mobilization, reform movements, uses of the environment, and the relationship between race and class under slavery. He directed the UNC Center for the Study of the American South from 1999 to 2012, and edited its quarterly journal, Southern Cultures, from 1993 to 2019. He has served as president of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic in 2010–2011 and the Historical Society of North Carolina.

Some Notable Publications

  • “On the Banks of the James or the Congaree: Antebellum Political Economy,” in Craig Thompson Friend and Lorri Glover, eds., Reinterpreting Southern Histories: Essays in Historiography (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2020), 166-196. With John D. Majewski.
  • “Democrats and Whigs: The Second American Party System,” Paula Baker and Donald Critchlow, eds., The Oxford Handbook of American Political History, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  • Building the American Republic: A Narrative History to 1877, Volume I. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018)
  • “The Man with the Dirty Black Beard: Race, Class, and Schools in the Antebellum South,” Journal of the Early Republic 32, 1 (Spring 2012), 1–26
  • Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America. 2nd rev. ed., with new Preface and Afterword (Hill & Wang, Inc., 2006)
  • “The Common Rights of Mankind: Subsistence, Shad, and Commerce in the Early Republican South,” The Journal of American History, vol. 83, no. 1 (June 1996), 13–43
  • An Independent People: The Way We Lived in North Carolina, 1770–1820 (University of North Carolina Press, 1983)
  • Jacksonian Politics and Community Conflict: The Emergence of the Second American Party System in Cumberland County, North Carolina (Louisiana State University Press, 1981)