BBC Radio 4 to Feature Dr. Foy this Thursday

On October 6th, as part of BBC Radio 4’s program “Britain’s Black Past,” Dr. Charles Foy will be featured in its episode “Sailors.” During the broadcast Dr. Foy will utilize his Black Mariner Database to illustrate how in the 18th century the Royal Navy was both a ‘taxi service to freedom’ for runaway slaves and how black sailors were always in danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The broadcast will be available online shortly after its transmission at



Explaining One’s Research to the Public

From the desk of Dr. Charles Foy:

A basic responsibility of EIU faculty is to create knowledge. For historians, this typically takes the form of monographs published by university press or articles in academic journals. Unfortunately, the readership for these works is generally not extensive. The public’s exposure to history often is limited to the History Channel (Hitler, Hitler and more Hitler!). How to ensure a wider audience for our interesting scholarship? Eastern’s historians are engaging the public on a number of non-traditional and digital medium, including blogs, Twitter, and online essays.

Where can one find EIU history faculty’s informal writing? Here are some examples:

Twitter: Dr. Laughlin-Schultz, a historian of 19th century reform movements and women’s history regularly tweets on these issues, political matters and her new book project on the reformer Lucy Stone at


Dr. Newton Key tweets on 17th century British history at

Blogs: Short form essays are a handy means to quickly describe one’s research. The longest-standing blog by a EIU historian is Dr. Key’s Early Modern England blog at


Online Articles: Recently, a plethora of websites have been developed that seek to explain historical issues to the general public. One of these, Red Hooks Water Stories,, has undertaken to explain New York City’s maritime history to the public.


This Fall it will be publishing Dr. Charles Foy’s short essay, “Blacks on the New York Waterfront during the American Revolution.” This is essay is a condensed version of Dr. Foy’s recent scholarly article “The Royal Navy’s Employment of Black Mariners and Maritime Workers, 1754-1783,” published in the February 2016 edition of International Maritime History Journal.

Join us online!

EIU History Graduate Student Is Awarded Prestigious Mellon Foundation Internship

Graduate student Kimberly Jones has been chosen as a Mellon Scholar at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Kimberly is working on a thesis entitled “Colorism in the Eighteenth Century” under the supervision of Dr. Charles R. Foy. She will take part in a week long internship program this summer that will “include research talks, CV-building, an introduction to the African Americana holdings at the Library Company and at area repositories, training in the creation of competitive fellowship and graduate program applications, and mentoring and networking with African American history scholars.” This program is an important component in the Mellon Foundation and the Library Company’s efforts to increase minority participation in the field of Early American History.

Kimberly Jones

MA student Kimberly Jones

Upcoming African American Heritage Month Panel: Images of Race in American History (Feb. 11)

From the desk of Dr. Charles Foy:

As recent events have demonstrated race significantly impacts all our lives.  How does the study of history illuminate our understanding of race as a construct? On Wednesday, February 11, three of Eastern’s history professors, Drs. Charles Foy, Lynne Curry and Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska, will discuss how images of race – a colonial tobacco advertisement, a portrait of an 18th century black poet, a photograph of a 19th century reflect and a 20th century photograph of civil rights demonstrators – have shaped and reflect Americans’ construction of race.​

Images of Race in American History Panel

Piracy Undergraduate Research at Newberry Library

Undergraduate historical research at Eastern is supported in a host of ways, including Study Abroad Grants, a plethora of writing awards, and Undergraduate Research and Creative, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Grants (“URSCA”).  An example of such research is John Bays who recently used an URSCA grant to travel to Chicago with Dr. Key to conduct research for his Honors Thesis “State Centralization & the 17th Century Court: the Role of Royal Bastards in France & England.”  (Yes, even bastards can be subjects of academic scholarship).

A key component supporting undergraduate research has been EIU’s membership in the Newberry Library’s Renaissance Center Consortium. A benefit of this membership is travel grants for EIU students to support research at the Newberry Library. In past years such grants have supported research on Honors Theses concerning Illinois during the American Revolution as well as several research trips by students in Dr. Foy’s Golden Age of Piracy course. On November 7th Dr. Foy and nine students from his piracy course – Laura Adrian, Will Beltran, Clyde Bradford, Michael Glowacki, Alex Hopkins, Bethany Haywood, Lauren Knipp, Emily McInery, and Kathleen Rebbe – woke up before the roosters to catch the 5:27 am City of New Orleans train to the Windy City. A quick cab ride to the library and after an orientation by Will Hansen, the library’s Curator of Americana, the students eagerly dived into reading 17th and 18th century books and manuscripts regarding pirates in the western Atlantic.

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Among the students’ finds were Spanish maps showing fortifications used to repel pirates and British naval forces.

Plano de Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, por Mariano de la Rocque, 1777, Newberry Library, Mapas antiguos de Cuba, Map7C G4921.1 1980 M3 (NLO).

Plano de Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, por Mariano de la Rocque, 1777, Newberry Library, Mapas antiguos de Cuba, Map7C G4921.1 1980 M3 (NLO).

After dinner at Eataly in downtown Chicago the group walked over to Union Station for the trip home. Unfortunately, Amtrak did not cooperate as the train returning left three hours (!!!) late, causing the group not to arrive at Mattoon until 3:30 AM.  Despite bleary eyes, all had a productive and fun time.

History Graduate Student Wins 2014 King-Mertz Award

Nichole Garbrough (MA 2014) was recently selected by the EIU Graduate School to receive the prestigious King-Mertz Distinguished Research/Creative Activity Award for her Independent Study project “Delaware Valley Allegiances and Identity in the Eighteenth Century” done under the supervision of Dr. Charles Foy.  This paper addressed the question of how and when residents of British North American changed their identities from being British to being American. Through a careful and detailed analysis of identity Nichole demonstrated Delaware’s unique history among the thirteen colonies and at the same time confirmed that its diversity and lacking a monolithic religious community or mono-crop economy were more typical of colonial America than Massachusetts or Virginia, colonies which most historians have focused their attention.

Nichole’s research for this project was done while taking Dr. Newton Key’s Early Modern England and Dr. Foy’s Early America seminars.

Student’s Honors Thesis Project Accepted for National Conference on Undergraduate Research

From more than 4,000 submissions, Mark Stanford’s Honor Thesis project “’I carry War in my right hand and in my left Peace’: George Rogers Clark and the Illinois Country Middle Ground during the American Revolution,” has been selected for presentation at this year’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Kentucky. This is a unique opportunity for Mark to present his scholarship before a national audience of fellow undergraduate scholars and faculty.

America’s Cup and America’s Black Mariners

With the America’s Cup underway, eyes are focused on space-aged ships zipping across San Francisco Bay at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour. In a recent letter to the editor Dr. Foy pointed out  that the races provide “an opportunity to bring into focus the often overlooked history of African-American seamen.” He urged the Golden Gate Yacht Club to find a way to recognize African-American maritime heritage as part of the America’s Cup challenge.

Bemused Americanist Passes as Fleet Street Native

Dr. Charles Foy at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK

Dr. Charles Foy at Dr. Johnson’s House in London, UK (Summer 2013)

Proving to be a believer in Samuel Johnson’s edict that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” Charles Foy took two trips to London this summer. The first in June was to do a public lecture, “Remapping the Black Atlantic,” at the Black and Asian Studies Association at the University College of London.  In July Dr. Foy returned to London to present a paper, “The Royal Navy, 1775-1783: An “Island of Liberty” or A Strategic Employer of Black Labor?” at the National Maritime Museum’s “Navy and Nation” conference. The conference focused on the Royal Navy’s role in shaping Britishness and component notions of class, race and gender.   A revised version of Dr. Foy’s paper will be published next year in a NMM anthology.