Charles_ Prior

Dr Charles W A Prior

Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History

Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education

01482 466328

On leave, January – August 2019

I grew up on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee lands near Kingston, Ontario Canada, and was educated and taught at Queen's University (Canada), the University of Toronto, and the University of Cambridge, where I held a postdoctoral fellowship from 2004 to 2006. Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2008, I am a life member of Wolfson College, Cambridge and held visiting appointments in Canada, the United States and in the UK. My work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the British Academy, and the Leverhulme Trust.

With my colleague Joy Porter, I am a Co-Principal Investigator of the University-funded research cluster Treatied Spaces: Environment & Peoples in America, 1607-1890. My current book projects are concerned with how diplomacy between Native Americans and a range of imperial, colonial, and settler powers sheds new light on old questions about sovereignty, the control of territory, and the character of colonial political thought. I recently completed a new book, Powers in the Land: Negotiating American Sovereignty, from Roanoke to the Republic. It asks some hard questions about the truths that many historians hold to be self-evident: that the ideological origins of the American Revolution lie in arguments about political rights, which were conducted exclusively within English and European frameworks of political ideas. The book takes a different approach, and situates conflict over land and sovereignty at the centre of a contest between settlers, Indians, colonial governors and the Crown. Offering the first sustained analysis of treaties and laws that structured the relationship between settlers and Indians, it recovers a long history of ‘conquest’ that Thomas Jefferson claimed as the basis of ‘the right to hold’ and rule territory. Aspects of the larger argument can be found in my chapter: ‘Settlers Among Empires: Conquest and the American Revolution’ in Remembering Early Modern Revolutions edited by Ted Vallance.

My current book project is called Pathways of Power: Treaties and the Shapes of Sovereignty in America, 1701-1784. It argues that the most important treaties of the eighteenth century were negotiated around council fires in New York and Pennsylvania, rather than in European courts. Treaties shaped relations of power between Indians, settlers and the British Crown, but they are the least understood part of the history of early America. This project fills that gap by providing a systematic analysis of a selection of key treaties that defined a contest for sovereignty and territory before and after the American Revolution. The map of early America was comprised of fluid and contested zones of law and violence, where diplomacy, trade and amity mingled with conflict, exclusion and enmity. That complexity has been obscured by a narrative of democratic revolution that relegated Native Americans to the status of ‘merciless Indian savages’. This project will challenge common perceptions to reveal a history of imperial negotiation where European power was matched by that of indigenous empires. The book devotes a chapter to one of three linked themes: how territory was claimed; how this territory was subsequently used and its ‘ownership’ contested; how space and territory were reshaped as the result of these processes.


Research Interests

American and British History, 1607-1800

European / Native American Diplomacy

Settler Colonialism

International Law

American Revolution

Research groups

With my colleague Professor Joy Porter, I lead the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster, a multi-year interdisciplinary project that explores the ways in which treaties between Native American peoples and settler, colonial, and federal governments shed light on questions of sovereignty, the possession of land, the use of space and the environment, the movements of peoples and goods, and pathways of war and disease.



i) Books

 Powers in the Land: Negotiating American Sovereignty, from Roanoke to Republic (Draft TS complete).  Funding by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship ((RF-2017-156\3).

 A Confusion of Tongues: Britain’s Wars of Reformation, 1625-1642 (Oxford University Press, 2012). 266 pp.

‘Highly recommended’, Choice (September 2012). Reviewed: H-Albion (September 2012); Reviews in History (11 October 2012); Journal of British Studies, 52 n. 1 (2013), 233-35; Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 64 n. 2 (2013), 419-20; Renaissance Quarterly, 66 n. 3 (2013), 1042-3; American Historical Review, 118 n. 4 (2013), 1244-5; Anglican and Episcopal History, 82 n. 4 (2013), 479-81; The English Historical Review, 128 (2013), 1572-4; Recusant History, 31 n. 4 (2013), 638-40; The Canadian Journal of History 48 n. 2 (2013), 329-30; Journal of Church and State 56 (2014), 176-8.

England’s Wars of Religion, Revisited, ed. Charles W. A. Prior and Glenn Burgess (Ashgate, 2011). 350 pp.

Noted: Reference and Research Book News (October 2011), 27; ‘Recommended’, Choice (Feb 2012). Reviewed: Renaissance Quarterly, 65 n. 3 (2012), 968-9; Seventeenth Century News, 70 n. 3-4 (2012), 155-7; Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature, 96 n. 1 (2012), 65-6; Sixteenth Century Journal, 43 n. 4 (2012), 1130-31; Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 64 n. 1 (2013), 187-9; The Seventeenth Century, 28 n. 1 (2013), 92-4; H-Albion (May 2013); The English Historical Review, 128 (June 2013), 684-6; Anglican and Episcopal History, 82 n. 4 (2013), 479-81; Parliamentary History 33 n. 2 (2014), 364-8.

 Defining the Jacobean Church: the Politics of Religious Controversy, 1603-1625 (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005; paperback edn., 2012). 314 pp.


Reviews: Historische Zeitscrift, 282 n. 2 (2006), 480-82; The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 57 n. 4 (October 2006), 779-81; H-Net Reviews (November 2006); Journal of Church and State, 48 n. 4 (Autumn 2006), 888-9; Seventeenth-Century News, 64 n. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 2006), 151-4; The Canadian Journal of History, 41 n. 3 (Winter 2006), 549-50; Tijdschrift voor Gesschidenis, 199 (2006), 418-19; The Journal of British Studies , 46 n. 1 (January 2007), 164-66; History, 93 n. 305 (January 2007), 117-18; The Journal of Religion, 87 n. 2 (April 2007), 275-76; Journal of Early Modern History, 11 n. 1&2 (2007), 145-6; Church History, 76 n. 3 (2007), 637-39; American Historical Review, 112 n. 5 (December 2007), 1606-7; Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature, 91 n. 1 (2007), p. 70; Fides et Historia, 39 n. 2 (2007), 120-21; Zeitscrift für Historische Forschung, 34 n. 4 (2007); Sehepunkte, 7 n. 11 (2007).

 Mandeville and Augustan Ideas: New Essays, ed. Charles W. A. Prior, English Literary Studies Monograph Series, n. 83 (Victoria, BC, 2000). 144 pp.


Reviews: Studies in English Literature, 41 n. 3 (2001), 636; University of Toronto Quarterly, 71 n. 1 (Winter 2001-02), 231-32; English Historical Review, 471 (April 2002), 479-80; History of Political Thought, 23 n. 3 (2002), 549-51; Modern Language Review, 98 n. 1 (2003), 186-88; The Scriblerian, 37, n. 1 (Autumn 2004), 91-2.


 ii) Articles and Book Chapters


‘Settlers Among Empires: Conquest and the American Revolution’, in Remembering Early Modern Revolutions: England, North America, France and Haiti, ed. Edward Vallance (Routledge, 2018), 79-93.


‘Early Stuart Controversy: Church, State and the Sacred’, in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Literature and Religion, ed. Andrew Hiscock & Helen Wilcox (Oxford University Press, 2017), 69-83.


‘England’s Wars of Religion: A Reassessment’, in The European Wars of Religion: An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of Sources, Interpretations and Myths, ed. W. Palaver, D. Regensberger, & H. Rudolf (Ashgate, 2016), 119-38.

 ‘Rethinking Church and State During the English Interregnum’, Historical Research, 87 (2014), 444-65.


‘“The Highest Powers”: Grotius and the Internationalisation of Church and State’, Grotiana, 34 n. 1 (2013), 91-106.


Hebraism and the Problem of Church and State in England, 1642-1660’, The Seventeenth Century, 28 n. 1 (2013), 37-61.


Religion, Political Thought and the English Civil War’, History Compass, 11 n. 1 (January 2013), 24-42.


‘Cannons and Constitutions’, in England’s Wars of Religion, Revisited, ed. Charles W. A. Prior with Glenn Burgess (Ashgate, 2011), 101-23


‘New Light on Milton’s “Fable of the Wen”’, Notes and Queries, 54 n. 4 (December 2007), 395-400.


‘Laurence Echard’, in Eighteenth-Century British Historians, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 336, ed. Jan Jenkins (Detroit: Gale Research, 2007), 95-103. [7300 wds]


‘Ecclesiology and Political Thought in England, 1580-c.1630’, The Historical Journal, 48 n. 4 (December 2005), 855-84.


‘Trismegistus “His Great Giant”: A Source for the Title-page of Hobbes’ Leviathan’, Notes and Queries, 51 n. 4 (December 2004), 425-38.


‘Ancient and Reformed?: Thomas Bell and Jacobean Conformist Thought’, The Canadian Journal of History, 38 n. 3 (December 2003), 425-38.


‘Introduction’, in Prior (ed.), Mandeville and Augustan Ideas (Victoria, BC, 2000), 9-15.


‘“Then Leave Complaints”: Mandeville, anti-Catholicism and English Orthodoxy’, in Prior (ed.), Mandeville and Augustan Ideas (Victoria, BC, 2000), 51-70.


iii) Collaborative articles (Early Modern Research Group)


‘Towards a Social and Cultural History of Keywords and Concepts by the Early Modern Research Group’, History of Political Thought, 31 n. 3 (2010), 427-48. This article was written as part of a collaborative project funded by the British Academy.


‘Commonwealth: The Social, Cultural, and Conceptual Contexts of an Early Modern Keyword’, The Historical Journal, 54 (2011), 659-687.


iv) Shorter Pieces


Contribution to Round Table on Thomas Howard, God and the Atlantic: America, Europe, and the Religious Divide (Oxford, 2011). In The Journal of American Studies, 46 n. 4 (2012). DOI:


Encyclopaedia articles, ‘Declaration of Independence’; ‘Oxford Movement’; ‘Protestantism and Heterodoxy’, in Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History, ed. Will Kaufman and Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson, 3 vols. (ABC-Clio, 2005), vol. 1, 307-9; vol. 2, 678-80, 755-8.


Bibliographic articles, ‘Thomas Hobbes’; ‘John Locke’, in The Reader’s Guide to British History, general editor, David Loades, 2 vols. (New York & London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003), vol. 1, 647-8, 822-3.


v) Reviews (2000-present)

Thirty commissioned book reviews, published since 2000 in The American Historical Review, The English Historical Review, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, The Journal of Church and State, Church History, The Journal of Modern History, The History of Political Thought, Itinerario, Economic History Review, Seventeenth-Century News, Eighteenth-Century Studies, The Canadian Journal of History, and online via the Institute of Historical Research and H-NET.


Programmes taught on (2019)

Research PhDs

I am able to supervise topics in the broad fields of British political, constitutional or religious history between 1560 and 1800, and on the political history of the relationship between Britain and its American colonies (1600-1800), or the American Revolution.

Research PhDs 

  • James Walters (NECAH funded) – passed oral examination in November 2018
  • Heather Hatton (Treatied Spaces Cluster)
  • Mark Millard (Treatied Spaces Cluster)

Professional highlights

Academic qualifications

  • PhD, The 'Regiment of the Church': Doctrine, Discipline and History in Jacobean Ecclesiology, 1603-1625, supervisor Paul Christianson, Queen's University at Kingston (2003)

  • MA, Political Science and History, University of Toronto (1999)

  • BA Hons, Political Science, Queen’s University at Kingston (1997)

External roles

  • Member of Peer Review College, UKRI Future Leaderships Fellows, 2018 -
  • Member, Board of Examiners, MPhil/MSt (American History), Faculty of History, University of Oxford
  • Peer reviewer, Research Fellowships Scheme, Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK)
  • Peer reviewer, Standard Research Grants Program, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • Book manuscript reviews for the University of Notre Dame Press, Ashgate Press, Pickering and Chatto, Routledge UK, Pearson Education, Versita / De Gruyter
  • Article manuscript reviews for Journal of British Studies, History of Political Thought, The Historical Journal, The Historian, The Canadian Journal of History

Awards and accolades

Research Funding

  • Research Fellowship, Leverhulme Trust, 2017-18

  • British Academy, Small Research Grant, 2008

  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Post Doctoral Fellowship, 2004-2006

  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship, 2001-2003

Visiting Appointments

  • 2010 Visiting Scholar, St John’s College, Oxford

  • 2008 Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College, Cambridge

  • 2007 Elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

  • 2006 Elected Life Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge

  • 2004-2006 Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College, Cambridge

  • 2004 Visiting Fellow, Bader International Study Centre, Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex

  • 2002 Visiting Fellow, Bridwell Library & Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.