Chair in Hispanic Studies
I studied history at the University of California, Berkeley before completing my DPhil in history at St Antony’s College, Oxford University. I then worked at Birkbeck College, University of London and the University of Manchester before starting at the University of Aberdeen in the autumn of 2012.
Memberships and Affiliations
School Impact lead
Journal of Latin American Studies, co-editor
Society for Latin American Studies, President
External Examiner, University of Kent, Department of Hispanic Studies, Taught MA programmes
External Examiner, University of Lancaster, Department of European Languages and Cultures, BA and MA programmes (Spanish)
External Examiner, Institute for the Study of the Americas, MA programmes
My research has focused on two Latin American countries in two different centuries: nineteenth-century Chile and twentieth-century Mexico (publications may be found under the 'further information' tab).
In my research on Mexico, I examined how the changes brought about by the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) were experienced at the grassroots level. Using Church and State educational programmes in Mexico City as my initial focus, I argued that students, both children and working adults, and teachers used the wide-ranging opportunities that the post-revolutionary era afforded them for their own ends – ends that ranged from skills training for upward mobility to enrolling in night school in order to find romance – amid the increasing tension between Church and State, both providers of free education. This research produced a single-authored monograph (Arizona, 2003) and two co-edited volumes, The Women’s Revolution in Mexico (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007) and New Approaches to Resistance in Brazil and Mexico (Duke, 2012).
My Chilean research focuses on the history of science, museums and friendship in the nineteenth-century. In The Sociable Sciences (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) I argue that friendships has played a crucial role in the practice of the natural sciences; the transnational networks that this natural science community forged in and around Chile provided the mechanism through which a highly collaborative and sociable work dynamic emerged, in a period before naturalists had significant governmental or institutional support.
I am happy to supervise postgraduate research on topics concerned with the cultural and social history of Latin America, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of particular interest to me are topics related to themes of gender, including women’s history and masculinity; history of science, eugenics, exploration and museums; history of education (widely understood); and the history of friendship and other ties that bind.
My current research builds on The Sociable Sciences to address the means through which natural history knowledge was created, adapted and transmitted in nineteenth-century Chile thanks to collaboration between career-minded naturalists, for whom Chile’s ‘unexplored’ status proved irresistible, and non-naturalist supporters, for whom fostering the natural sciences aided national progress. I am interested in the values of natural history work, as well as the means of dissemination of these values.
I am also working on a project on the Manual de urbanidad (1853) by Venezuelan Manuel Antonio Carreño. Despite its venerable age, this etiquette guide remains relevant to Spanish American popular culture through updated editions, YouTube parodies and chatshow discussions. The prevalance of Carreño’s Manual, in popular culture and new versions, is because, in the Spanish-speaking world, this text was a nineteenth-century publishing and reading phenomenon. This guide was read by individuals, adopted by school systems and became the yardstick of appropriate social intercourse. Despite its impact, there is little scholarly research on the guide's reception, adoption and adaptation in Spanish America since its publication. British Academy and Santander funding have allowed me to begin research on this book in Mexico and Chile, as the starting point for a project about the text in Spanish America.
Finally, I am continuing my work on the links between Aberdeen, the university, the city and the shire, and Latin American using the university's collections. At the moment, my research focuses on two figures. James Trail was the university's professor of botany, from 1876, but previously spend 18 months as part of an Amazonian survey. I am investigating his time in the Amazon and his life. I am also studying the life of John McPherson, an Aberdeen medical graduate, who emigrated to Mexico around 1903 and spend most of his life there, working as a doctor for the Compañía Mexicana de Petróleo El Águila (Mexican Eagle Petroleum Corporation) and later working privately. Both Trail and McPherson were donors to the university museums collections.
Research Funding and Grants
I have received funding from the British Academy, the AHRC and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.
- Encountering the Other in Iberia and the Americas
- Latin America: Texts and Contexts
- Revolutionary Creativity and American Inspiration
- Ploughing the Sea: Spain and Spain America, 1750-1990
- Women Making History: Mexico and Chile in the Twentieth Century
- Chronicles of Spanish America
- Principal’s Teaching Excellence Award, runner up, 2020
- Undergraduate Nominee, Excellence in Teaching Award, 2016-2017
Non-Course Teaching Responsibilities
Current PhD Students
- Sue Bremner, 'Scots in Peru, 1800 - 1930: An Overlooked Corner of the Scottish Diaspora' (co-supervision with Prof. Marjory Harper)
- Carol Gare, 'Paternalism, Philanthropy and Profit. Rio Tinto social welfare and municipal benefits 1873-1931'
- Matthew Lee, 'Private Reflections and Public Pronouncements: Caribbean Slavery in the Scottish Consciousness, c.1750-1834' (co-supervision with Prof. Catherine Jones)