Sarah Miller Davenport Profile PictureDr Sarah Miller-Davenport

B.A. (Oberlin College), Ph.D. (Chicago.)

Lecturer in 20th Century US History

U.S. 20th century history; U.S. foreign relations; cultural history

+44 (0)114 22 22599 | Jessop West 3.02

Semester Two 2018/19 Office Hours: Mondays 14:00-16:00



Sarah Miller-Davenport joined the department in 2014. She studied history at Oberlin College, worked at an international foundation in New York City for a few years, and then went on to receive her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2014.

Sarah's approach to research and teaching seeks to broaden the study of U.S. history by exploring the intersections of global developments and domestic political, social, and cultural change. Her dissertation examined the ways in which Hawai‘i statehood in 1959 represented a transformational moment in how Americans defined their nation’s role in the world, and how they negotiated the problem of social difference at home—a shift that heralded the emergence of multiculturalism after the end of civil rights reform. Her teaching interests reflect a broader commitment to expanding the geographical and conceptual scope of U.S. history. She aims to help students to see the U.S. as one nation within a larger interdependent world system that at once defies the category of the nation-state and is defined by it.

Sarah has received funding for her research from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the George C. Marshall Foundation, and the Eisenhower Foundation, among others. She is also the recipient of the Bernath Article Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations for her Journal of American History article on American evangelical missionaries in Japan and the Philippines.

Professional Roles

American Historical Association, Member

Organization of American Historians, Member

Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, Member



Sarah Miller-Davenport's research focuses on how Americans conceptualized their nation's role in the world after World War II, and how the advent of the United States as a global superpower transformed domestic culture, politics, and social relations. Her current book manuscript, Gateway State: Hawai‘i in American Culture, 1945-1978 (forthcoming from Princeton in 2019), explores the impact and meaning of Hawai‘i statehood in 1959 and its complicated and contradictory relationship to the global movement for decolonization, which in turn shaped the emergence of multiculturalism in American society. It analyzes how and why Hawai‘i became a site for both managing human difference and for projecting U.S. global power, twinned projects that came together in Hawai‘i and rippled outward. How did Hawai‘i go from a racially problematic overseas territory to the symbol of John F. Kennedy’s ‘New Frontier,’ which imagined the U.S. as a nation unshackled from old ideas of race, ethnicity, or territoriality? By tracing the political struggles over statehood and its cultural aftermath, Sarah's project shows how this conception of the nation was both popularised and contested in American society, creating new racial formations in the process.

Sarah’s next project explores the reinvention of New York as a ‘global city’ in the wake of its fiscal crisis in the 1970s. It aims help to provincialize globalization by focusing on New Yorkers as both producers and subjects of the worldwide economic changes of the late-20th century. It will illuminate the intersections of the local and global by examining a range of actors, from municipal officials to museums to hospitality associations, who promoted world integration as a solution to city problems—and whose efforts to enrich New York via foreign capital had profound consequences for its mostly working class and low-income residents.

Other research has examined the role of American missionaries in Asia in the post-WWII revival of evangelicalism at home and the impact of the Peace Corps on multicultural education in the United States.

Sarah is involved in a number of research collaborations. As co-coordinator of the Cold War Cultures Network, she helps to engage both students and academic staff from around the world in forging new approaches to the study of the Cold War. She is also co-principal investigator of ‘Imperial Afterlives: The Crisis of Nation and Citizen in Historical Perspective’. This the White Rose Collaboration project investigates the contingency and volatility of the nation-state system and the impact of alternative political orders—federations, commonwealths, transnational regimes, national incorporation— that emerged from decolonization and have informed the struggles of the post-imperial age.

Research Supervision

I am happy to supervise students working on 20th century U.S. politics, culture, and foreign relations.

Completed students:

  • Lucy Bell (second supervisor) - From Cooperation to Confrontation? Trade Unionism, British Politics and the Media, 1945-1979.

All current students by supervisor | PhD study in History



Gateway State: Hawai‘i in American Culture, 1945-1978 (forthcoming 2019, Princeton)

Journal Articles

'"Their Blood Shall Not be Shed in Vain": Evangelical Missionaries and the Search for God and Country in Post-World War II Asia,' The Journal of American History, March 2013 (winner of the Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations).

'A "Montage of Minorities": Hawai'i Tourism and the Commodification of Racial Tolerance, 1959-1978' (forthcoming from The Historical Journal).


 Module Team

History Workshop, HST120 (Level 1 core module)

History Workshop, HST120

In the History Workshop you will learn the craft of the historian by working with closely with one of our academics on a particular area of their research while simultaneously developing the skills you’ll need to make the step up to university-level historical study.

How do professional historians go about their work? What skills do they need? And, how do they develop them? In this module, you’ll consider these questions by engaging with real historical questions.

Tutors will base their seminars on their own specific research interests, making this module a great way of integrating you into the research culture of the department and giving you real insight into what our historians actually do. Each tutor will then use this area of research as a means of exploring how historians identify and analyse relevant primary sources and navigate historiographical debates, while teaching a range of skills such as critical reading, bibliographic techniques and effective written and oral communication.

You will also develop skills at working both independently and as part of a wider team. The History Workshop has its own on-line learning environment, which enables you to work at your own pace on a series of research exercises. One of the main assessments for this module is a group presentation where you’ll work with other students to research a particular topic and present your findings to the rest of the group.

Historians and History, HST202 (Level 2 module)

Historians and History, HST202

This module introduces students to some of the most influential and significant developments which have shaped the ways in which historians think about and write about the past. Since History became professionalised as a specific academic discipline in the nineteenth century, historians have adopted a variety of different approaches to their studies. For some, ideas about the past have been shaped by political beliefs, by the application of political ideologies and philosophies, and by the desire to produce a more inclusive version of history, focusing on the experience of the working classes, women, and groups marginalised in established accounts. Others have been influenced by different methods of research, and the opportunities offered by particular types of source material to tell different stories about the past. Others still have been inspired by intellectual theories and by borrowings from other disciplines, like literary studies and anthropology, to explore new ways of thinking about history. The module allows students to think more about the different ways in which we can study History, and to engage with the work of a number of historians whose influence can still be felt today.

It aims to equip students with the necessary background to develop a more critical approach to the secondary literature which they encounter throughout their degree course and to build bridges between the various modules they are studying at levels 2 and 3.

Module Leader

The United States and the Cold War, 1945-1975, HST3138-3139 (Level 3 special subject module)

The United States and the Cold War, 1945-1975, HST3138-3139

The Cold War shaped American foreign policy as well as domestic politics and culture for much of the second half of the 20th century. But how all-encompassing was the Cold War? How did non-state actors react to and influence the course of its development? And how “cold” was the Cold War? This module will examine the Cold War with fresh perspective. We will revisit the traditional historiography, which focuses on high policy actors and U.S. relations with the Soviet Union. But we will also gain new insight from an emerging literature that challenges such a deterministic and elite framing of what was a global conflict that involved multiple actors at all levels of society, many of whom brought with them complex motivations that existed prior to, or outside of, the rigid Cold War binary. In addition to these secondary sources, we will explore a wide range of primary source material, from declassified State Department documents to Third World assertions of sovereignty to popular films and novels.

Another Country: America and the Problem of Colonialism, HST6063 (Postgradauate module)

Another Country: America and the Problem of Colonialism, HST6063

This course explores America’s historical relationship to the problem of colonialism and how the United States has shaped, and been shaped by, the forces of both colonialism and its collapse. Rather than approaching the United States as an actor in external struggles for sovereignty, it treats the U.S. as author of its own projects of colonization and decolonization. The course readings will examine the impact of the problem of colonialism on both American foreign relations and domestic U.S. culture throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with particular attention to how it structured categories of race, gender, and nation in American society. At the heart of our inquiry will be a number of key questions on the nature of U.S. global power. Is the United States an empire? If so, is it an exceptional one? If not, how should we characterize America’s role in the world?

Approaches to the American Past, HST6604 (Postgradauate module)

Approaches to the American Past, HST6604

This core module explores key themes in American history from the colonial through to the modern eras, introducing students to important debates in historical scholarship and giving them an awareness not only of the principal historiographical schools but also of the critical interrelationship between historical trends and events and scholarly interpretations of the past. Classes will be organised chronologically and thematically and will be taught through a series of case studies covering topics such as Native American history, consumption, gender, class, slavery, immigration and ethnicity, the New Deal, revisionism and the Cold War, and the New Left.

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

“‘Their Blood Shall Not be Shed in Vain’: Evangelical Missionaries and the Search for God and Country in Post-World War II Asia,” JAH Podcast, April 2013.

In The Media

To Follow

Administrative Duties

Administrative Duties

Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching