Dr Joanna Cohen

Senior Lecturer in American History

Location Arts Two 4.10

Email: j.cohen@qmul.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8363

I gained my BA from Cambridge and my MA from Northwestern University before moving to Philadelphia in 2003 to do my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania.
Living in the city where the United States was born fostered my fascination with the history of American citizenship; research in New York furthered my love of Manhattan’s historic department stores.


My first book, Luxurious Citizens: Consumption and Civic Belonging in Nineteenth Century America, (Penn Press, 2017) charts the creation of the citizen-consumer in the US before the Civil War. It reveals how merchants, manufacturers, retailers, advertiser and shoppers themselves attempted to define civic virtue through both personal and national shopping habits, resulting in a vision of citizenship that to this day positions consumption as an American virtue and entitlement. 
My new work focuses on the ways in which Americans experienced loss in the nineteenth century. I explore how new capitalist, bureaucratic and commercial technologies shaped people’s emotional understanding of losing their homes, possessions and environments.
I am also working on a project that explores how people “came to terms” with the ends of conflicts in the Atlantic World. Privileging visual and material culture as a source, this project asks how people made their peace with violence and war through the things and images they had in their lives.

  • US Citizenship
  • Consumption and Consumerism in the Atlantic World
  • American Capitalism and Political Economy
  • Visual and Material Culture in the US

Undergraduate teaching

Postgraduate teaching

Postgraduate supervision 

I welcome applications from candidates wishing to pursue doctoral research in the following areas:

  • Nineteenth Century American History especially:
  • Capitalism
  • Consumption and consumer culture
  • Culture, visual culture


  •  Luxurious Citizens: Consumption and Civic Belonging in Nineteenth Century America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).
  •  “To Catch the Public Taste”: Interpreting American Consumers in the Era of Atlantic Free Trade, 1783-1854,” in The Atlantic World ed. D’Maris Coffman, Adrian Leonard and William O’ Reilly (London and New York: Routledge, 2015): 573-596.
  •  “Promoting Pleasure as Political Economy: The Transformation of American Advertising, 1800 to 1850.” The Winterthur Portfolio, 48:2/3, Representations of Economy: Lithography in America from 1820 to 1860 (Summer/Autumn 2014): 163-190.
  •  “Ephemeral Loyalties? Consumption, Commerce and Jeffersonian Politics, 1806-1815.” The Readex Report, (November 2011, 6/4).
  •  “ ‘The Right to Purchase is as Free as the Right to Sell.’ Defining consumers as citizens in the auction-house conflicts of the early republic.” The Journal of the Early Republic, 30: 1 (Spring 2010), 25 – 62.
  •  “Images and Imagination: Consumers in Commercial Lithography,” The Book, (March, 2008, Number 74).
  •  “Stranger’s fever in Charleston, South Carolina: a mistaken diagnosis? The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 37, 2007: 273-6.  With J. Cohen, BSMS, UK.






Membership of professional associations or societies

Appearances in the Media

In 2014 I was one of only ten young academics to win the AHRC/BBC3 New Generation Thinker Award. Since then I have appeared on Radio 3’s flagship programme: Freethinking, as well as making appearances on Radio 4 and at the Radio 3 Freethinking Festival in 2014. I also wrote and presented a short documentary for BBC Arts Online. I have written for The Conversation and I tweet from @HistorianJo