Andrew Fearnley

Andrew Fearnley


  • Dept. of English & American Studies, Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road

    M139PL Manchester

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile


I am an historian of the modern United States, with interests in the history of racial thought, African American intellectual history, urban studies, and the histories of leisure and work. Much of my research deals with the concept of race, and the history of racial thought in the twentieth century. My doctoral work considered how American psychiatrists' ways of thinking and practicing were shaped by racial assumptions, and proposed ways in which historians could go about illuminating this concept in that field. 

I have written about the role of periodization in Anglo-American historiography; the financing of activism among Black Power groups, especially within the Black Panther Party; and the design and international circulation of Black Power books. I spoke about the British Black Panthers on BBC Radio 4's Making History. More recently I co-edited a collection with Daniel Matlin (KCL) about the changing place and profile of Harlem, New York, entitled Race Capital? Harlem as Setting and Symbol.

I am presently working on two other projects. The first examines the cultural remaking of sports spectatorship in North America, a process I trace to the 1980s when large screen videoboards, such as the DiamondVision and Jumbotron, assumed a growing importance in the presentation of live sports. The second project considers the place of psychoanalysis within Anglo-American anthropology, tracking this influence through the career of Ashley Montagu between the 1920s and late 1970s, a subject I recently wrote about for the History of Anthropology Review blog. 

I have done a lot of work with secondary schools and in widening interest in the study of the US in Britain, and am particularly drawn to projects of public history. From 2021-2024, I served as an elected member of the British Association for American Studies, helping to oversee its teachers' network, reviving it annual schools conference, and setting up the Association's school newsletter O'er the Ramparts, which I continue to co-edit with school teacher Adam Burns. 

Research interests

Research Projects

(1) Harlem in the Postwar European Imagination

In the twentieth century, and through to the twenty-first, Harlem has occupied a commanding place in US cultural and intellectual life, celebrated as a 'race capital', the 'capital of black America'. Yet the neighbourhood has also long been presumed to have enjoyed global renown. My current research examines, for the first time, what European, and especially French and West German writers, artists, and journalists made of 'Harlem' in the second half of the twentieth century. 

(2) Ashley Montagu, Freud, and the Mental Sciences around Mid-Century

Ashley Montagu was one of the most prolific and innovative anthropologists in the years around mid-century. Trained at UCL in the 1920s, and Columbia in the 1930s, Montagu inherited a rich intellectual tool-kit, including a grasp of the burgeoning field of psychoanalysis. By fashioning a partial intellectual biography of Montagu, this project will attempt to consider the influence that psychoanalytic precepts had on Anglo-American anthropology in the years between 1920 and 1970. This is a vital tributary of investigation for the history of anthropology, for understanding the place of psychoanalysis in public life, and for those more narrowly interested in the work of Montagu. When complete the project will make two significant contributions: firstly it will raise questions about the history of methodological innovation within the human sciences (what exactly did anthropology think it could extract from Freud?); and secondly it will provide one of the fullest intellectual biographies of Montagu to date. A piece based on this research was recently published on the History of Anthropology Review blog, Clio's Fancy. 

(3) Learning to do 'the Wave' in the Late Twentieth Century US

In early-1980s, a new ritual took root among US sports spectators, involving ‘a general waving of arms by standing customers, spreading section to section,’ and it soon became known as ‘the Wave’. This project tracks the emergence and entrenchment of this gesture, and considers how sports spectators learned to do “the Wave” in the late twentieth century. That is: How did this ritual become a commonplace mass gesture, widely recognized by US sports fans? How were potentially tens of thousands of spectators able to choreograph themselves to perform such a movement? In addressing these questions I argue that we need to approach the sports spectator as an historical figure, whose comportment, gestures, sartorial decisions, understanding of what they were watching, and sense of themselves have changed over time, and that we think of sports spectatorship as a learned cultural practice, honed through (perhaps surprisingly) printed manuals, by cheerleaders, television graphics and commentators, and, by the 1980s, large-screen video display boards, such as Mitsubishi’s DiamondVision and Sony’s JumboTRON. It relates the Wave’s emergence in the early-1980s to the broader transformation in sport stadium operations, and especially the shift in the technology used to prompt cheers and coordinate crowds, and in so doing expands previous scholarship on the history of gesture, beyond a concern with the meanings of actions, and towards a contemplation of their historical mechanics.

Further information

Postgraduate Students:

I am interested to hear from postgraduate students wishing to work on any of the following fields and topics:

  • African American intellectual history
  • History of racial thought, particularly in the modern US
  • History of the mental and medial sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Studies of work and leisure in the twentieth-century US

Public Lectures and Schools Outreach: 

I am always keen to hear from school teachers and members of the public about the topics I research and teach. In spring 2021, I co-organized the programme's schools competition, entitled 'Letters to a President'.  
In the past few years, I have given a number of lectures for schools, sixth forms, and the general public, some of which are now available here:  
In the past few years, I've also co-produced several pieces of public history working with students on our History and American Studies degree. In 2020-21, working with students and local A-Level teachers, I co-produced a short booklet offering 'New Approaches to US Civil Rights History', which can be downloaded here

In 2023-24, once again alongside my first-year students, I put together a walking tour of Manchester's American Connections, spotlighting those prominent or influential Americans who journeyed to the city between roughly the 1770s and 1960. I spoke about that project on Manchester's community radio station allfm.


I convene or contribute to the following modules:

AMER10002: From Reconstruction to Reagan, American History from 1877-1988 (1st year course)

AMER10500: Introduction to American Studies (core 1st year course)

AMER20111: Work and Play in the USA, 1880-2010 (2nd/3rd year course)—intro video here.

AMER30511: Harlem and the State of Urban America (upper-level course)—intro video here, student projects from 20-21 here

Master's Level: AMER60091: American Studies, Theories, Methods, Practice

Supervision information



Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Areas of expertise

  • F001 United States local history

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Urban Institute
  • Creative Manchester


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