Adam Smith awarded Research Project Grant by the Leverhulme Trust

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The Rothermere American Institute is pleased to announce that Professor Adam Smith has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant for a three-year project on 'Conservatisms in an Age of Revolutions', to be hosted at the Institute from September 2024.

The project will be led by Professor Smith as principal investigator, with Dr Mark Power Smith and a further scholar, to be appointed in due course, acting as research assistants. Over a period of 36 months, it will examine how conservatism emerged in the US and its Atlantic neighbours over the course of the nineteenth century.

In situating early conservatism in its historical context, the investigators set out from the empirical observation that the term 'conservatism' appeared simultaneously in the Unites States, Britain, and Latin America in the 1830s and '40s. In the United States, against a background of political instability at home and revolutionary movements abroad, it became a term of legitimation, invoked even by political actors advocating radical change. The project therefore seeks to understand conservatism as a distinct concept, rather than a mere antithesis to 'liberalism' or 'progressivism'.

In doing so, it pursues three principal objectives. First, to investigate how political goals and practices were defined as conservative in the Atlantic world of the 1830s and '40s, and how these interacted with liberal ideas and ambitions. Second, to use this transnational approach to clarify why the language of conservatism was so salient in the nineteenth-century United States. Third, to achieve a better understanding of the origins of late-nineteenth century conservative regimes, including their roots in liberal and radical movements.

The main outputs of the project are expected to be a monograph on US conservatism between the 1830s and 1870s, an edited volume examining nineteenth-century conservatism in an Atlantic perspective, and three peer-reviewed articles.

RAI Director and project Principal Investigator, Professor Adam Smith, says, "I'm delighted that the Leverhulme Trust has been able to support this research. It is the core business of the RAI to explore the political ideas that have shaped the United States, especially by situating the US in a transnational context. This project will also provide much-needed career opportunities for two early career academics, which is also one of our principal purposes."

Since its foundation in 1925, the Leverhulme Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education, funding research projects, fellowships, studentships, bursaries and prizes; it operates across all the academic disciplines, the intention being to support talented individuals as they realise their personal vision in research and professional training. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £100 million a year. For more information about the Trust, please visit and follow the Trust on Twitter/X @LeverhulmeTrust.

The Rothermere American Institute is a department of the University of Oxford dedicated to the study of US history, politics, and culture. Established in 2001, it hosts more than 100 academic and public events every year, and provides a hub for faculty members, students, and visiting scholars working on the United States. It shares a building with the Vere Harmsworth Library, which is part of the Bodleian Libraries system and Oxford’s main research library for US history and politics. For further information, please visit and follow the Institute on Twitter/X @RAIOxford.