With two professors of American history, five associate professors of American history, and several specialist lecturers in the field, Oxford has a particular emphasis on studying America in a global context. The subject group is led by Pekka Hämäläinen, Rhodes Professor of American History.
The RAI brings together Oxford's specialist faculty in American history, doctoral candidates, students taking the M.St. in U.S. History - the longest established course of its type in Britain - and undergraduates working on one of seven different papers in American history.
The Vere Harmsworth Library is home to the largest academic collections in American history outside the U.S. The weekly American History Research Seminar and international conferences bring historians of America from across the world to the RAI. Recent speakers include Brooke Blower, Christopher Capozzola, Brian DeLay, Annette Gordon-Reed, Gary Gerstle, Patrick Griffin, Kristin Hoganson, Margaret Jacobs, Jennifer Keene, Paul Kramer, Anthony Pinn, Peter Onuf, Andrew O'Shaughnessy, Manisha Sinha, Stuart Schwartz, and Ian Tyrrell.
There are two major annual lectures: the Harmsworth Lecture in American History in Michaelmas Term and the Sir John Elliott Lecture in Atlantic History in Trinity Term.
Undergraduate students in history can study seven different papers on the United States:
- Britain’s North American Colonies from Settlement to Independence, 1600–1812 (second/third year General History paper)
- From Colonies to Nation: the History of the United States 1776–1877 (second/third year General History paper)
- The History of the United States since 1863 (second/third year General History paper)
- Haiti and Louisiana: The Problem of Revolution in the Age of Slavery (first year Optional Subject)
- Slavery and the Crisis of the Union, 1854–1865 (second/third year Special Subject)
- Race, Religion and Resistance in the United States, from Jim Crow to Civil Rights (second/third year Special Subject)
- The Age of Jefferson, 1774–1826 (second/third year Further Subject)
History undergraduates can also write their final year thesis, based on independent study of original sources, on American topics. The best thesis in American history receives the Carwardine Prize, given in honour of Richard Carwardine, FBA, Rhodes Professor of American History from 2002 to 2009.
The Harmsworth Visiting Professorship of American History, currently held by Elliott West, was established in 1922 to bring the most distinguished scholars of American history to Oxford to teach and research for a year. Recent holders have included Alan Taylor, Kristin Hoganson, Annette Gordon-Reed, Richard Blackett, Gary Gerstle, Philip Morgan, Peter Onuf, and Lizabeth Cohen.