Graduate Students

The RAI has lively graduate communities in American History, Politics, and Literature, working on Master's and doctoral degrees. Each week, students on the M.St. in US History have a core seminar, and doctoral students meet for the American History Graduate Seminar and American Politics Graduate Seminar where they hear and discuss papers in progress from their peers.

Graduate students also attend the weekly American History Research Seminar (AHRS) and American Literature Research Seminar (ALRS), which bring historians of America and scholars of American literature from across the world to the RAI to share their current research.

Biographies of current doctoral students

Biographies of some of the current doctoral students in American history, politics, and literature working at the RAI can be found below.


Dominic Barker is a DPhil candidate in History at Lady Margaret Hall. His research examines the life and political philosophy of Ronald Reagan, in particular examining Reagan’s devotion to individual freedom. By constructing Reagan as a non-intellectual intellectual, Reagan provides for an excellent case study to explain how the conservative ideology of individual freedom led the 1960s GOP away from group civil rights and collective economic need. Dominic graduated from University College London with an MA in US History and Politics, and is supervised by Dr Gareth Davies.

Todd Carter is a DPhil candidate in History at University College. His research focuses upon the conduct of British and American policies toward Rhodesia (and Namibia) in the context of the Cold War in Southern Africa. Stretching from 1964, immediately prior to Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Britain, up until the creation of the new nation of Zimbabwe, in April 1980, he explores the dimensions and content of UK and US diplomatic engagement in the region. The research question that animates Todd’s study is: what can an exploration of said policies reveal about the Special Relationship between the two powers in the 1960s and 1970s? The case is one of the evolution of policies by successive governments, statesman and diplomats of two close allies with respect to a problem that interwove so many dominant issues of the era: decolonisation, the East-West struggle, racial justice, and civil rights. At the same time, his research will also shed light on the part that personality and human relationships played in promoting (and occasionally obstructing) progress in Rhodesia, and consider whether partisan control of British government mattered for relations between Britain and the United States. His supervisors are Dr Nigel Bowles, Dr Sue Onslow, and Professor Stephen Tuck.

carwardine prize

Sage Goodwin is a D.Phil. candidate in History at University College. Her research explores contemporary television news representations of the long Civil Rights Movement in America from 1954-1968. She examines the complex interplay between the decisions made by those behind the scenes, what was actually shown on the screen, and the ways in which American audiences reacted to it. She is interested in how the racialised and gendered frames presented on television defined the popular narrative of civil rights struggle in the process both helping and hindered the struggle for black equality. Sage holds an M.St. in US History from Oxford and her supervisors are Prof. Stephen Tuck and Dr Mara Keire.

Grace Mallon is a D.Phil. candidate in US History at University College. She is researching the interactions of the federal and state governments in the early American republic. Historians understand American policy-making in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries - for example, the legislation surrounding Prohibition, Civil Rights, or the Affordable Care Act - to result from the interaction (antagonistic or cooperative) of federal, state, and local governmental institutions. Grace’s thesis will apply this insight to the history of the late eighteenth century, moving away from traditional intellectual and legal histories of early American federalism, and investigating instead the practical implications of the new federal system for policy-making in the early republic. Grace holds a BA and MSt in History from the University of Oxford. Her supervisor is Dr Nicholas Cole.

Laura Ellyn Smith is studying for a DPhil in History at St. Anne’s College. She is a presidential historian who has had six peer-reviewed journal articles published and enjoys writing op-eds on current politics. Her research as part of the RAI analyzes the US imperial presidency and seeks to challenge the conception of only associating the expanse of executive power with the modern presidency. She aims to present the presidency as a continuum, citing connections between presidents from different eras and emphasizing the power of precedent. She holds a PhD in History from the University of Mississippi and graduated with an MA in US History and Politics from University College London. Her supervisor is Professor Adam Smith.



Daniel Ibrahim Abdalla is a D.Phil. candidate in English Literature at Wadham College. His thesis considers three American expatriates in fin-de-siècle London: Henry James, Elizabeth Robins, and Edith Wharton. He is specifically interested in the transnational context of fin-de-siècle literature and theatre, especially as these media allow for the transmission of new scientific ideas. By recovering networks of literary, dramatic, and scientific individuals and institutions, his work demonstrates the broad aesthetic response to the consequences of the new evolutionary worldview. Alongside his thesis, he worked on the ERC-funded Diseases of Modern Life project where he researched representations of degeneration in fin-de-siècle drama. He completed an MA in English at King's College London and a BA in English and History at Illinois State University. He is supervised by Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr.


Zachary Seager is a D.Phil. candidate in English at Pembroke College. His research focuses on the relation between Henry James, painters, and painting. His thesis argues that, throughout his corpus, James stages a contest between painting and fiction, consistently emphasising the ways in which fiction ought to be considered the superior art. This formed part of a broader programme in which the novelist sought to demonstrate the value and intellectual seriousness of fiction—still in jeopardy in the nineteenth century—by contrasting it with the painter’s art. In this way, his thesis revises longstanding ideas about James’s response to and communication with painters and painting. At the same time, it reveals through the eyes of a major writer some of the myriad ways in which painting and fiction corresponded in the period. He is supervised by Professor Michèle Mendelssohn (English) and Professor Alastair Wright (History of Art).

Politics and International Relations

Alex Coccia is a D.Phil. candidate in Politics at St. John's College. He is studying the policy narratives that shape U.S. and state-level government responses to persistent poverty. Alex's dissertation explores the relationship between structural explanations for poverty and the role community agency plays in these explanations.  He is supervised by Professor Desmond King and is the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship to support his graduate study at Oxford. He holds an MPhil in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford and a BA in Africana Studies and Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame.


"Working on a thesis in American history at Oxford, the RAI has become a second home for me. Of special importance for me is the graduate workshop, where I benefit from the stimulating works of my colleagues and get the opportunity to present my project and receive invaluable comments in the friendliest environment."

Nimrod Tal, doctoral student from Israel, who wrote his thesis entitled 'The American Civil War in Twentieth Century England: Popular, Political, Military and Academic Legacies'