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Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

Department: History

Supervisors: Professor Andrew Preston and Dr Sujit Sivasundaram

College: Trinity Hall

AHRC Subject Area: A

Title of Thesis: Jesus in the American Pacific, 1854-1930


Biography:

I began my PhD in 2015 having completed both a BA in History (2012) and an MPhil in Historical Studies (2013) at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and worked for two years in academic publishing. My Masters dissertation considered the role which conceptions of time played in the missionary encounter in nineteenth-century Polynesia, and my PhD thesis picks up this theme, shifting focus to the ‘American Pacific’ in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Specifically, I am looking at understandings of Jesus, which were very much bound up with questions of past, present, and future: Jesus was simultaneously a historical figure, an omnipresent divine being, and a messiah whose return was fervently anticipated. During the nineteenth century, a huge and diverse body of European and American literature reimagined his life, but little scholarly attention has been paid to the implications of this increasingly fragmented conception for concurrent attempts to evangelise the world, or to the role which Western engagement with other cultures played in further pluralising ideas. I hope to draw out interesting comparisons between the ways in which the multiple religious cultures of the Pacific interacted with American thought about Jesus, and to contribute to a burgeoning literature on religious transnationalism.

Other academic interests

Nineteenth-century history; imperial history; transnational history; American history; Pacific history; East Asian history; science and religion; world Christianities; Biblical history; Higher Criticism; cultural encounter; oceanic history; travel and exploration; conceptions of time