Office Hours: By Appointment
Ph.D, University of Chicago
Teaching and Research Interests
Political Economy and Western Expansion, Revolutionary America and the Atlantic World
Susan Gaunt Stearns is an Assistant Professor of History. She received her doctorate from The University of Chicago in 2011. Susan’s work focuses on how the trans-Appalachian west — the region encompassing the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, came to be incorporated into the American union in the 1780s and 1790s. Drawing on research conducted in ten states and on two continents, Susan’s work argues that it was the development of trade connections that helped to develop a shared conception of national interests that united the trans-Appalachian west to the rest of the union. Susan’s work focuses in particular on the period from 1784 until 1803 when Spain (and later France) the Gulf South and large parts of the Mississippi River — the primary trading outlet available to migrating western settlers. When Spain closed the Mississippi to American trade, it touched off an economic crisis in the trans-Appalachian west that forced an explicit evaluation the region’s relationship with the rest of the union.
Susan is particularly interested in questions of how various areas of economic activity, particularly land purchases and land speculation, influenced the ideologies and politics that shaped the nation in its first few decades of the early Republic.