Richard Johnson

Professor Emeritus
Richard Johnson

Contact Information


Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1972

I am a historian of early America and the early modern Atlantic world. After specializing in medieval history as an undergraduate in England, I turned to more modern fields after coming to America and UC Berkeley for graduate work. My first book, Adjustment to Empire: The New England Colonies, 1675-1715 (Rutgers University Press and Leicester University Press, 1981) is a comparative study of the New England colonies as they passed through the period of the Glorious Revolution in England and America, and their different accommodations to a closer relationship with English imperial government and society. A second book, John Nelson, Merchant Adventurer: A Life between Empires (Oxford University Press, 1991) uncovers the adventurous life of a merchant, insurgent, diplomat, and spy as he navigated between the various imperial powers of the late seventeenth-century Atlantic world. I have also published a number of essays in books and journals on such topics as Ancient Greece and Early America, Indian-white relations in colonial New England, the Glorious Revolution in America, the historiography of empire, the American colonies in the early eighteenth century, and the clash of legislatures in the coming of the American Revolution

My current research interests focus on the period of the American Revolution and the processes of comparative states-formation during these years. I have served on the editorial boards of the Journal of American History and The William and Mary Quarterly, and as Director of Graduate Studies and then Chair of the UW History Department. In recent years, I have twice given the Alumni Lecture Series at the University of Washington and received the university's Distinguished Teacher Award.

I currently teach courses on early American history, the American Revolution, and American Constitutional History, along with undergraduate seminars on such topics as Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams; Race and Labor in Early America; and Comparative Empires in Early Modern North America. I offer graduate fields in Early America and Comparative Colonialisms.

Courses taught

HSTAA 301, Early America

HSTAA 401, The American Revolution

HSTAA 351, American Constitutional History

HST 388 and 498, undergraduate seminars on various topics