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Adam Challoner

About Me

I am a fourth year departmentally-funded PhD candidate at the University of Warwick, supervised by Professor Tim Lockley, studying the history of reading in the antebellum South. I am particularly interested in the ways in which reading was used as a means of negotiating the political and economic turbulence of early American nationhood, and as a vehicle through which the myriad paradigms of American national and individual identities were articulated to, and interrogated by, readers in the Old South.

My Research

Provisional Title: A Reading People: Cultural Anxiety and the Common Reader in the Antebellum South

My research explores the reading vogues and experiences of ordinary Southern people during the final two decades of the antebellum period. Framed against a 'reading revolution' in the United States, these years are especially interesting as they witnessed the rapid expansion of the American print industry and reading public, just as the already tenuous foundations of American nationhood began to fracture. In the face of imminent crisis, and in the midst of sweeping and fundamental shifts in conceptions of identity and selfhood, it was to literature that these Southerners turned in the hope of negotiating these unique intellectual challenges.
As such, my thesis is currently centered around the following broad questions:

  • To which books and authors did the Southern common reader turn in the face of increasing sectional divisions?
  • What uses and functions did these readers ascribe to their books?
  • How did books influence their experience of the sectional conflict?

Through an examination of their surviving reading notes, my thesis aims to reconstruct how this period was experienced intellectually by these readers, offering an insight into the most intricate mechanics of identity construction and deconstruction the period inevitably produced.

Academic History

2019 - 2023: University of Warwick
PhD - History

2017 - 2018: University of Liverpool
MA - History: Pass with Distinction
Dissertation: “Books for the Million!”: Fiction Factories and the Contest of Meaning in American Dime Westerns, 1860-1875. Supervised by Professor Mark Towsey.

2014 - 2017: University of Liverpool
BA (Hons) - History: First Class
Dissertation: The Savage and the Civilised: Gender and the Crisis of Identity in Eighteenth-Century British Literary Culture. Supervised by Professor Mark Towsey.

Funding & Awards

2020: Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship
Virginia Museum of History and Culture

2020: Major Award
The Bibliographical Society

2019 - 2022: Department of History Doctoral Scholarship
University of Warwick

2017: Mark Almeras Thompson Prize
University of Liverpool


2022/23 - University of Warwick

HI111 - A History of the United States

2021/22 - University of Warwick

HI111 - A History of the United States

HI2F6 - Science in the Early Modern World

Conferences & Seminars


May - August 2020: Warwick History Postgraduate Conference 2020 (Reformatted as a PodcastLink opens in a new window)
Co-organised with: Hannah DennettLink opens in a new window, Liz EganLink opens in a new window, Erin GeraghtyLink opens in a new window, and Maria TauberLink opens in a new window.


May 2022: Southern Studies Forum Conference (Jagiellonian University)
Southern Literary Socialisation and the Sectional Crisis.

April 2021: Arch Dalrymple III History Graduate Association Conference (University of Mississippi)
Reading Sectionalism: David Schenck and the Collapse of American Nationhood.

February 2021: Oxford Early American Research Seminar (Oxford University)
"No Class or Age Escapes it": The Novel-Reading Disease and the Democratisation of American Nationalism.

November 2020: Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies Postgraduate Conference (Durham University)
“An Excessive and Diseased Sensibility”: Emotive Reading and the Contest for Interpretative Authority in the Antebellum United States.

August 2020: Warwick History PG Podcast
Printed Identities and Identities of Print in the Early-Modern English Parliament and the Old South.

Public Engagement

'The White Southern Identity in the Antebellum South,' BrANCH Teaching Resources.

Adam Challoner

Office: FAB, Room 3.45

Office Hours:

Tuesday: 3 - 4pm

Thursday: 1 - 2pm
(MS Teams)

Please email in advance to arrange a Teams meeting.

Research Interests

History of Reading

Antebellum South

American Literary History

History of the Book