Amy M. Cools

Thesis title: The Life and Work of James McCune Smith (1813-1865)


PhD in History (2021) and MA in Intellectual History with Distinction (2018), University of Edinburgh. Prior to resuming my academic career at the University of Edinburgh in 2017, I have long been an independent scholar in intellectual history and the humanities. Creator of a website and podcast ‘dedicated to philosophy and the history of ideas that change the world,’ I have been focused on public impact in the world of ideas since 2013. 



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PhD in History, University of Edinburgh (2021)

MSc in Intellectual History, University of Edinburgh, Distinction (2018)

BA in Philosophy: Ethics, Politics and Law, California State University at Sacramento, Summa Cum Laude (2013)

AA in Humanities and Fine Arts, Riverside City College, Distinction (1999)

Undergraduate teaching

History of the United States (Spring 2021)

Themes in Modern European History (Fall 2020)

Themes in Scottish History Since 1560 (Spring 2020)

Modern United States History (Fall 2019)

Current research interests

The life and work of James McCune Smith (1813-1865); history of British, American, and transatlantic abolitionism, especially in the antebellum (U.S. Civil War) period.

Past research interests

History of philosophy, early modern to modern, focusing on ethics, politics, and law; history of science; U.S. presidential history; and Native American and U.S. relations and conflicts, especially from the Civil War era to the early 1900’s. I have made special studies of, among others, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Sanger, Thomas Paine, David Hume, and Joan of Arc.

Current project grants

Society of Civil War Historians Micro-Grant, 2020

McMillan Award, University of Edinburgh, 2019/20

Gilder Lehrman Institute for American Studies Scholarly Fellowship, 2019

European Association for American Studies Research Travel Grant, 2019

Papers delivered

'Genesis of a Medical Pioneer: James McCune Smith in Glasgow and Beyond, 1832-1837,’ American Association for the History of Medicine Annual Meeting, 13-16 May 2021, Madison, WI, USA

‘Invaders: Dr. James McCune Smith and the History of Anti-Immigration Rhetoric in the United States,’ BrANCH British American Nineteenth Century Historians, 11-13 Oct. 2019, University of Edinburgh, UK

‘James McCune Smith and Tokenism in the Mainstream Abolitionist Movement,’ BAAS British Association for American Studies conference, 25–27 Apr. 2019, Brighton, UK

'James McCune Smith: African American Physician of Many Firsts,’ First Year PhD in History conference, 11Apr. 2019, University of Edinburgh, UK (Also served on the organizing committee)

‘James McCune Smith and John Marshall on Form and Substance in U.S. Government,’ Scottish Association for the Study of America conference, 2 Mar. 2019, University of Edinburgh, UK

‘James McCune Smith Predicted African American Predominance in American Art and Culture,’ Black Atlantic Authorship and Art (1818-2018) International Symposium, 16–17Nov. 2018, University of Edinburgh, UK

‘Roots: Tracing the Family History of James McCune and Malvina Barnett Smith, 1783-1937,’ Parts 1-3, Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, 2020

‘James McCune Smith Predicted African American Preeminence in United States Art and Culture’ in 'A New Dawn of Freedom’ special issue for Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, 2020

‘Roots: Tracing the Family History of James McCune and Malvina Barnett Smith’ (summary), AAHGS News: The Bi-Monthly Newsletter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, September/October 2020

‘Paine on Basic Income and Human Rights.’ Thomas Paine National Historical Association website, 30 March 2016

‘Science & Philosophy: A Beautiful Friendship.’ Philosophy Now, Issue 109, August/September 2015


'America’s First Black Physician Sought to Heal a Nation’s Persistent Illness,' Bryan Greene, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Feb. 2021

Ordinary Philosophy: Self-published essays, reviews, mini-bios, and more, 2013-present

Frederick Douglass and His Scottish Influences – MSc thesis 2018, University of Edinburgh