Dr Simon Topping
School of Humanities and Performing Arts (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)
- American history
- American civil rights
- American popular culture
- Black US soldiers and World War Two
- American politics/elections/Republican Party
- Northern Ireland and World War Two
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Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) United States History
Exchange Co-ordinator, School of Humanities
I have been at the University of Plymouth since 2004, prior to my appointment here, I taught at the University of Wales (Bangor) for a year. I did my PhD, entitled “The Republican party and Civil Rights, 1928-1948,” at the University of Hull, supervised by Professor John Ashworth and Dr John White, and successfully defended my thesis, examined by Professor Tony Badger (Cambridge), in 2002.
I taught in the American Studies Department at Hull from 1997 until 2003. Before that, I took a Masters degree in American History at the University of Sheffield from 1994 to 1996, working under Professor Richard Carwardine and Dr Robert Cook and specialising in civil rights. As part of my BA in American Studies at the University of Ulster (graduating in 1993) I spent a year as an exchange student at the University of Mississippi (1991-1992), where I was appointed to the Chancellor’s Honor Roll for Academic Achievement.
At Plymouth, I was head of the Popular Culture degree from 2004 until 2009 and subject leader for American Studies from 2008 until 2010. I have been a member of the History team since 2008.
British Association for American Studies (BAAS)
My teaching concentrates on the United States. I offer a first year core module entitled America from Settlement to Empire (HIST406) which examines American history from the arrival of Columbus to the end of the Spanish-American War. This module introduces students to the key themes in the first two hundred years of European settlement in what would become the United States and demonstrates how the country has been shaped by settlement, revolution,slavery, civil war, westward expansion and imperialism.
My second year module, America Since 1900 continues from where HIST406 left off, examining the key moments in the United States’ rise to superpower status, analysing the Progressive Era, the New Deal, two world wars,the Cold War, Vietnam, Watergate and America's role in the post-Cold War World.
I developed American Popular Culture since 1945, a second year module using various forms of mass culture to understand the United States. Thus, for example, we look at McCarthyism through film, the impact of television on the democratic process, black history via music and employ sources as diverse as comic books and political satire as well as more traditional historical texts, to show how culture operates in its political and historical context.
In the third year I offer two modules on the civil rights movement, the first deals with the period from 1890 to 1954 and the second from 1954 to 1970. The first of these modules looks at the roots of the modern civil rights struggle, examining key figures such as Booker T.Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and Walter White, and key events such as Scottsboro, the Great Depression, WWI and WWII and the Cold War. The second module deals with the more familiar territory beginning with the Brown decision of 1954 and concluding in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King.
Staff serving as external examiners
I am currently working on a book project provisionally entitled Faithful Sentinel: Northern Ireland, the United States and the Era of the Second World War. This will analyse the positive reaction of the government of Northern Ireland, the only self-governing region of the United Kingdom at the time, to the presence of the American military. Stormont saw the war effort and association with the United States as a way of strengthening the union. Conversely, I will also consider how the issues and problems of Northern Ireland were reported back to Washington by the Belfast consulate, and the attitude of the American minister in Eire during the war, David Gray, towards partition and Irish history more generally. The final aspect of this research analyses the efforts of the Northern Ireland government to seek support for, and investment in, the country after the war, concentrating primarily on Prime Minister Brooke’s tour of North America in 1950. I am hoping to publish this book in 2019.
This research grows out of three articles dealing with the stationing of African American troops in Northern Ireland during the war: the first examined their reactions to the locals and vice versa in addition to their treatment at the hands of their white comrades and the US military authorities. The second analysed the attitude of the government of Northern Ireland to the importation of American racism, while the third, accepted by the Journal of African American History and due for publication in 2017, uses Northern Ireland as a case study for the racist application of American military justice during the war.
Further ahead, I am hoping to write a monograph on comics and the Great War, focussing on Charley's War.
My previous research analysed the pre-1954 civil rights struggle in the United States, looking in detail at the black vote and culminatingin the publication of Lincoln’sLost Legacy: The Republican Party and the African American Vote, 1918-1952 (University Press of Florida, 2008). I also contributed a chapter on Walter White to Longis the Way and Hard: One Hundred Years of the National Association for theAdvancement of Colored People (NAACP), (Universityof Arkansas Press, 2009) and have published articles in the Journal of African American History, the Journal of American Studies, the Irish Journal of American Studies, OVERhere (now the European Journal of American Culture), Historical Research and the African American National Biography. I have also written a numberof book reviews for national and international journals.
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Other academic activities
Co-ordinator of Department of Humanities reciprocal student exchanges with the United States and Erasmus exchanges with the Netherlands and Sweden.
Co-ordinate Humanities student exchanges to the United States as part of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP)
Manage study link/scholarship scheme with the Roosevelt Study Center in the Netherlands