Roderick A. McDonald
Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: Iberian and Latin American History
Competition: US & Canada
Roderick A. McDonald is Professor of History at Rider University and editor of the Journal of the Early Republic (JER) published for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) and the premier publication on the history of the United States between 1776 and 1861. A native of Aberdeen, Scotland, he was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and the University of Aberdeen; he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas in 1981.
Mr. McDonald’s publications, focusing on the history of slavery and the transition to freedom, include The Economy and Material Culture of Slaves: Goods and Chattels on the Sugar Plantations of Jamaica and Louisiana (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1993), which compared enslaved peoples’ independent economic activities in the two regions. He edited West Indies Accounts: Essays on the History of the British Caribbean and the Atlantic Economy in Honour of Richard Sheridan (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 1996), a volume commemorating the noted economic historian that included his chapter on crime and social control after emancipation on the island of St. Vincent. This research culminated with the publication of Between Slavery and Freedom: Special Magistrate John Anderson’s Journal of St. Vincent during the Apprenticeship (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, and Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), which examined post-emancipation Vincentian society, drawing on the experiences of a Scottish lawyer who helped adjudicate the four-year transition from enslavement to full freedom.
Roderick McDonald’s Guggenheim project, The Ethnography and Pornography of Slavery: Dr. Jonathan Troup’s Journal of Dominica, 1789-1791, is based on a Scottish physician’s chronicle of a sojourn in the West Indies that engaged his ethnographic interest in the island’s African and African-Dominican peoples, but also drew him into a world of licentiousness, debauchery, and profligate, even predatory sexuality typical of liaisons between white men and Dominica’s black and coloured women, enslaved and free.
Mr. McDonald’s scholarship has received support from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Newberry Library, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies (MCEAS) at the University of Pennsylvania, and Rider University. In addition to editing the JER, he has served on the executive committee of the Association of Caribbean Historians, the editorial board of Slavery & Abolition, and the SHEAR and MCEAS executive boards. He has received Rider University’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and was Project Director for “Revolution to Republic: Philadelphia’s Place in Early America,” an NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for Community College Faculty.
He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and fellow-historian, Michelle Craig McDonald.
Photograph by Peter Borg, Rider University.