Fields of Study: Modern Britain and the British Empire, Modern Europe, History of the Mediterranean
Advisor: Linda Colley
My area of focus is the history of nineteenth century Britain, both domestically and across the Empire and broader world. Major areas of interest include British engagement with the Middle East and Mediterranean, French and British encounters with epidemic diseases in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the history of tourism and travel in Modern Europe, the history of theatre and spectacle, the history of Egyptology. Before I came to Princeton, I got an A.B. from Harvard in History and Literature and an M.Phil. from Cambridge in Modern European History.
At Princeton, I'm a fourth-year graduate student in the History Department. I received my M.A. in History in 2010, on the completion of my General Exams with fields in Modern Britain (Linda Colley), Modern France (Philip Nord) , and Great Powers in the Mediterranean (Molly Greene).
My dissertation examines British engagement with the Mediterranean quarantine system imposed on all travelers, traders, missionaries, soldiers, and others returning from the "East" (usually the Ottoman Empire) until the late nineteenth century.
Until quarantine's demise, every traveller, trader, soldier, or missionary returning from a "suspected country" to Western Europe was required to submit to at least three weeks of detention in quarantine. My dissertation examines this procedure during its final century, roughly between 1780 and 1870. Although quarantine had existed for centuries, by the late eighteenth century, the plague had vanished from Western Europe while it subsisted to a devastating degree in the Ottoman Empire and North Africa. As a result, quarantine gradually began to signal a major global barrier—between West and East, health and disease, and contagion and security. Plague, an ostensibly pre-modern disease, had singular importance in the modern era. I am arguing that Western European encounters with epidemic plague in the Middle East, (and precautions against it taken at home), affected the growth of the modern state, impacted palpably on the development of public health and sanitary reform, and fostered an imaginative framework in which linked exoticism, "Eastern-ness," and epidemic disease.
Although I have begun my research from the perspective of British history, I will adopt a transnational lens throughout. Major issues I consider include the meaning of quarantine as a border space, its significance as a barrier on increasingly globalized trade, its ability to regulate migrations of peoples, its relevance in fostering European cooperation, and its power as a cultural signifier.
Chase-Levenson, Alexander. "Annihilating Time and Space: Eclecticism and Virtual Tourism at the Sydenham Crystal Palace" Nineteenth-Century Contexts 34 (2012): 461-475.
Chase-Levenson, Alexander. "The Near East and the West End: Spectacle, History, and the Presentation of the Ancient Near East in Britain, 1800-1860." Victorian Insistute Journal 39 (2012): 145-171.