Sveinn Jóhannesson, Past & Present Fellow

The Inquiring State: Science and Government in the United States across the Long Nineteenth Century

Sveinn studies the history of the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, with particular emphasis on the histories of the state, capitalism, and scientific knowledge. Currently, Sveinn is completing his PhD dissertation at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Gary Gerstle. The dissertation explores the profound relationship between knowledge-making and state-making in 19th century United States. It demonstrates that, from the founding of the republic, scientific knowledge was at the heart of the formation of the federal government, and the federal government was crucial to the emergence of American science. Sveinn’s work has been published in the Journal of American History.

As Past & Present Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Sveinn will pursue research on a second project dealing with the intertwined formations of the American state, American science and American capitalism across the long 19th century. Building on the PhD dissertation, this research project focuses on the relationship between scientific knowledge and government in the US between the Civil War and World War I. The relationship in this period underwent a startling change: If government in the early 19th  century brought science to America, corporate capitalism in the late 19th century emancipated science from government.

Sveinn has received previous degrees in history with distinctions from Vanderbilt University and the University of Oxford as Clarendon Scholar.

Research and publications

Selected articles

  • "'Securing the State': James Madison, Federal Emergency Powers, and the Rise of the Liberal State in Postrevolutionary America," Journal of American History 104 (September 2017), 363–385