Andrew Fearnley

Andrew Fearnley


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

    M139PL Manchester

    United Kingdom

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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. The work charts the introduction of new methods to the mental sciences -- the case file, statistics and epidemiology, family therapy, genetic analysis -- arguing that these methods shaped the profile and purchase of concepts like race. 

I have also written about the role of periodization in Anglo-American historiography; the financing of activism among black power groups, especially within the Black Panther Party. I spoke about the British Black Panthers on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Making History, in September 2013. 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. 

In 2020-21, working with first-year History and American Studies students and local A-Level teachers, I co-produced a short booklet offering 'New Approaches to US Civil Rights History'. The project was funded by the US Embassy/ British Association of American Studies and University of Manchester' Social Responsibility funds, and can be downloaded here.

Research interests

Research Projects

(1) Making Methods Work: American Psychiatry and Concepts of Race, 1880-2000

This project, which will lead to a monograph, is an attempt to chart the purchase and profile of racialized modes of thought within the modern mental sciences, particularly American psychiatry, and to consider the procedures by which historians of science and medicine can recover this concept. 

(2) The Black Panther Party's Publishing Strategies and the Financial Underpinnings of Activism, 1968-1975'

Between 1968 and 1973, members of the Black Panther Party published some twelve books, several of them bestsellers, including Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (1968) and Bobby Seale’s Seize the Time (1970). To date scholars who have read these works have generally done so to recover and explain the Party’s activism. What they have tended to overlook is the fact these works were not just accounts of the Party’s activism, but examples of it, with money raised from their production and sale helping to support other forms of activism. This essay charts how the Panthers produced many of these books, and reveals the commercial strategy that guided these practices, in turn helping to raise questions more broadly about how social movements financially supported their activism in the 1960s and 1970s. The essay was published in the Historical Journal in March 2019. It received an 'honorable mention' in the HOTCUS 2020 essay prize. 

(3) Race Capital: Harlem as Setting and Symbol

Throughout the twentieth century, Harlem occupied a commanding place in American cultural and intellectual life. In the mid-1920s, the neighbourhood was celebrated as a 'race capital', and in later years, countless commentators described it as the 'capital of black America'. Although scholars and commentators have long called attention to this reputation, they have seldom probed why, when, and how Harlem acquired this status, nor have they really scrutinized the validity of such claims. Race Capital brings together thirteen prominent scholars of Harlem and black diasporic culture to reassess the discourses of Harlem exceptionalism, as well to consider the relevance of 'place' within contemporary humanities scholarship. The work was published by Columbia University Press in late 2018, and has been reviewed in several places. I am now in the early stages of thinking about a new essay around perceptions of Harlem by European (esp. French and German) writers and artists in the second half of the twentieth century. 

(4) 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. 

(5) 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:  



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 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Areas of expertise

  • F001 United States local history

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Urban Institute
  • Creative Manchester


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