Research Seminars

For 30 years Hagley’s research seminars have featured innovative works-in-progress essays to generate wide-ranging discussions among an interested audience.

 Beginning in spring 2022 the seminars will move to an online format, meeting monthly on Zoom during the academic year from noon to 1:30 Eastern time. Seminars are open to the public and based on a paper that is circulated in advance. Copies may be obtained by registering for the seminar you wish to attend. Please email Carol Lockman at if you have any questions about the seminars.

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Upcoming Research Seminars

2022 - 2023 Series -- View Series PDF

  • September 14, 2022: Hannah Tucker, “Creating an America Market: Slavery and Intercolonial Trade in the British Atlantic, 1698-1766”

    Between 1698 and 1766 traders in the British Atlantic forged significant shipping efficiencies. Some studies have attributed these efficiencies to reductions in days in port for transatlantic trading ventures. Yet, a dataset of 30,821 discrete records for vessel entrances and clearings out of Virginia to ports around the Atlantic demonstrates that emerging multilateral connections between colonial ports showed the greatest improved efficiency. In intercolonial trading, particularly with the Caribbean, entrepreneurial mariners responded to rapidly shifting conditions by connecting isolated communities through legal and illegal trading. These small-scale ventures provided a broad base of investors with the profits from completed voyages. Over the early-eighteenth century, these profits, borne of improved intercolonial shipping efficiency, came primarily from activities related to slavery. Intercolonial traders provided enslavers with the bare necessities that prolonged the lives of the men and women they enslaved, transported the products created by enslaved people, and moved enslaved people between varied sites of enslavement. The profits derived from the strongest efficiency improvements in the Atlantic shipping sector accrued to the broad base of mariners, investors, and traders who enabled ships to sail to the Caribbean colonies and trade between these islands. This paper explores the entangled histories of entrepreneurial mariners, landed attempts to organize trade, and the material growth created by enslaved people that powered their profits

  • November 16, 2022: Isabelle Held, "Soft Power: Plastic Foams, Design, and Postwar Bodies"

    Today polyurethane foams pad and cushion our bodies. They can be found in office chairs, sports shoes, shapewear, mouse pads, car upholstery, wheelchair seats, and mattresses. Yet, little is known about these plastic foams’ military-industrial origins. This chapter traces this history from a series of World War II US military intelligence reports that recommended the postwar transfer of plastic foams from Germany. Using a materials-centered approach this chapter explores how in the postwar US polyurethane foam’s materiality and soft appeal to the body moved from the lab to domestic spaces.

  • December 14, 2022: Greg Hargreaves, “Hunger for Innovation: Fall Line Merchant Milling and the Gospel of Automation, 1735-1865”

    American merchant milling was one of the most capital intensive, socially prominent, and financially lucrative industries in the late-colonial and early-national periods. Begun in the early eighteenth century, merchant milling, or large-scale market-oriented flour production, experienced a price revolution about 1748, and went on to lead United States exports by value until the Civil War. The industry had a spatial concentration along the fall line, a boundary and contact between distinct environments, due to the edge effect density of resources there and to the industry’s multiple links to capitalist practices and markets. Merchant millers didn’t do it to make flour, but to make money. Despite this shared emphasis on profit, or perhaps because of it, opinions among merchant millers differed as to what technologies best served their interests.

Past Research Seminars

2014 - 2015 Series -- View Series PDF