Dr Natalie Zacek

Senior Lecturer

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I received my PhD in history from Johns Hopkins University in 2000, and since then have taught American history at the University of Manchester. At the University, I am an active member of the American Studies Research Group and the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Within the profession, I am a member of the Royal Historical Society, the British Group in Early American History, British American Nineteenth-Century Historians, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Recent and current research projects

In 2010 Cambridge University Press published my first monograph, Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670-1776. This book, which won the Royal Historical Society's Gladstone Prize, is a study of the formation of white settler societies in the British West Indian colony of the Leeward Islands, comprising Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, and St. Kitts, in the century from their foundation as an English colony to the outbreak of the American Revolution and onset of their subsequent socioeconomic decline. It is based upon extensive archival research in the United States, Britain, and the Caribbean, and examines such topics as norms of gender and sexuality, competing religious practices, relations between white ethnic communities, and the formation of a political culture which was simultaneously imperially British and locally West Indian.

I have just completed my second monograph, provisionally entitled A Kingdom For a Horse: A Cultural History of Horse Racing in Nineteenth-Century America. This examination of thoroughbred horse-racing in the United States from the late eighteenth through the end of the nineteenth century focusses on the ways in which a variety of local, regional, and national elites employed the breeding, ownership, and racing of blooded horses in order to uphold these groups’ social, cultural, and political hegemony. 

My subsequent project is a study of the role played by West Indian absentee planters in the cultural and spatial development of later Georgian London. My first publication from this project will appear from the University of Virginia Press in 2023.

In spring 2022 I was a Faculty Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for American Studies at Harvard University, beginning work on a project entitled "The Price of Knowledge: English Universities and Slavery." This project originated in my and my former PhD student Matthew Stallard's research into the links between the University of Manchester's early donors and wealth derived from commerce in slave-produced commodities, and will result in a short book aimed at a popular audience which will offer the first in-depth examination of the relationship between England's universities and people, ideas, objects, and funds connected to the nation's history of enslavement. A paper on the University of Manchester's relationship to transatlantic slavery. which I co-authored with Prof. Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility, is available here:


Doctoral Supervision

I have supervised to completion the following PhD students at the University of Manchester:

  • Laura Sandy: "Overseers and Their Place in Colonial American Plantation Society" (currently senior lecturer in history at the University of Liverpool)
  • Patrick Doyle, "Disloyalty, Dissent, and Treason in Civil War South Carolina" (currently lecturer in history at Royal Holloway)
  • Natalie Armitage: "The Cultural History of the Voodoo Doll" (currently Education Programme Manager at the British Ceramics Biennial)
  • Matthew Stallard: "Racial Classification and Urban Space in Early Nineteenth-Century New Orleans" (currently research associate at the Legacies of British Slave Ownership project at University College London)
  • Sami Pinarbasi, "Slavery and Anti-Slavery in Late Georgian Manchester" (currently a fellow at the John Rylands Research Institute)
  • Patrick Massey, "New Orleans Exceptionalism in the Cultural Response to Hurricane Katrina"
  • Helen Kilburn, "Catholics in the Colonies: Nation, Religion and Race in Seventeenth-Century Maryland" (currently assistant rector at the University of Notre Dame's London Global Gateway)
  • Katie Myerscough, "Progressive Plans and Urban Realities in St Louis, 1890-1923" (currently a history teacher at Manchester Academy)
  • Mary Booth, "Collective Amnesia and the Evolving Narrative of the Enslaved: A Study of Slavery Representation within Privately Managed Plantations and Historic Houses in the US and the UK" (currently programme manager at the Center for the Study of International Slavery, University of Liverpool)

My current PhD student, Imani Khaled, works on the phenomenon of "human collecting" at the early modern European court. I also co-supervise Camilla de Koning's doctoral project on "Crown Engagement in Britain's Emerging Empire, 1660-1775," funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentship with Historic Royal Palaces and co-supervised by Edmond Smith (History).

I welcome enquiries from potential research students interested in the history of the United States, the West Indies, and the Atlantic world in the period bounded broadly by the Columbian voyages and the American Civil War, particularly those interested in social and cultural history, race, slavery and abolition, gender and sexuality, material culture, and the history of urbanism and the built environment. The John Rylands Library holds many collections relevant to these topics, including the Stapleton Manuscripts , the Brooke of Mere Muniments, the Thomas Coke Papers,  the Raymond Anti-Slavery Collection, the Voyages and Travel Collection, the Manchester Geographical Society Collection, and numerous sources on the global/transatlantic textile industry. The University Library subscribes to databases such as the African American Experience, Colonial State Papers, Early American Fiction, European Views of the Americas, Nineteenth-Century U.S. Newspapers, Readex Early American Imprints, and Sabin Americana, and is constantly adding to its collection of electronic research resources.

Social responsibility

In 2010 I was awarded second place in the University's Community Service and Volunteer of the Year Awards (staff category), for my involvement with the Manchester branch of the Samaritans.

I an actively engaged in sharing my research and teaching expertise beyond the academic community. I taught several modules on slavery, abolition, and the American Civil War through the University's continuing education programme, led a workshop on the relationship between capitalism and transatlantic slavery at the Manchester Central Library, and have given talks on black history at the Manchester Histories Festival and to community, school, and religious groups.

In autumn 2017 I received an award from the University's Social Responsibility in the Curriculum fund, in support of a Black History Month exhibition and programme of events, "Bittersweet: Slavery and Abolition in Manchester," which I developed in conjunction with Manchester's Portico Library. 

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Chair, Elsa Goveia Book Prize Committee, Association of Caribbean Historians (2022 - 2023)

Editorial committee member, Manchester University Press (2021 - )

Editorial board member, Global Nineteenth-Century Studies (2021 - )

Member, Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College (2020 - )

Steering committee member, Committee for the Defence of British Universities (2020 - 2021)

Member, Lawrence W. Levine Prize Committee, Organization of American Historians (2020-2021)

Editor, American Nineteenth Century History (2019 - )

Steering committee member, British American Nineteenth-Century Historians (2019 - )

Editorial board member, European Association for American Studies book series (2019 - )

Editorial board member, New Historical Perspectives book series, Royal Historical Society (2016-2021)


Areas of expertise


  • United States; Caribbean; Atlantic; race; slavery; gender; material culture

Education / academic qualifications

  • 2000 - Doctor of Philosophy Johns Hopkins University
  • 1992 - Master of Arts Johns Hopkins University
  • 1988 - Bachelor of Arts Cornell University

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