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Kristofer Ray


Senior Editor, Tennessee Historical Quarterly

Associate Professor of Early American History

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PhD University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2003

BA Baylor University, 1994


Research Interests:

My scholarly interests concentrate on North America within the context of the Atlantic World, with attention to issues of identity formation, political culture, and Indian-European interaction.  I particularly focus on the trans-Appalachian South in the 17th and 18th centuries.  In my current book project, I investigate the ways in which Cherokees set the parameters of European projection into the upper reaches of southern trans-Appalachia, circa 1670 to 1763.  I find that Carolina’s Indian slave trade, combined with the fear of Catholic France and Spain, fueled British efforts to ally with Over Hill Cherokee towns.  In so doing they catalyzed French efforts to solidify their own Indian connections, which touched off a process of contestation along a “corridor” stretching from the Savannah and Little Tennessee Rivers in the east to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in the west.  Over time, the corridor became an avenue through which Carolinians and Cherokees moved towards the Wabash River, the Ohio Valley, and the Illinois Country, and the French and French-allied Indians moved towards Cherokee country.  As Europeans imagined a North American empire here, Cherokees would both encourage and challenge their expansion. 

In short, between 1670 and 1763 Europeans struggled to overcome a tension between their visions of empire and the reality of Cherokee power in the upper trans-Appalachian South.  This tension shaped European identities and programs of western expansion, and influenced the way Indians and Europeans alike thought about sovereignty and jurisdictional control in the 18th century. 


Recent Courses Taught:

Colonial America

Revolutionary America

The South in the Atlantic World, 1540-1763

Indians, Europeans, and Empire in North America, 1670-1763

Indians and Europeans in the Early Modern American Southeast, 1540-1800

The Trans-Appalachian West in the Age of Revolutions, 1754-1815


Selected Publications:

Middle Tennessee, 1775-1825: Progress and Popular Democracy on the Southwestern Frontier (University of Tennessee Press, 2007)

Editor, Before the Volunteer State: New Thoughts on Early Tennessee History, 1670-1800 (University of Tennessee Press, November 2014)

 “Cherokees, Empire, and the Tennessee Corridor in the British Imagination, 1670-1730,” in Ray, ed., Before The Volunteer State

With Kevin T. Barksdale, “Searching for John Sevier: Myth, Memory, and the History of Early Tennessee History,” in Ray, ed., Before The Volunteer State

“Indians, Europeans, and the Struggle for Empire in 18th Century North America,” in Antonio Thompson and Christos Frentzos, eds., The Routledge Handbook of U.S. Diplomatic and Military History, Volume 1: Colonial Period to 1877 (Routledge Press, 2014)

“Leadership and Sovereignty in the Revolutionary American Southwest: The State of Franklin as Case Study,” North Carolina Historical Review Vol. XCII #3 (July 2015), forthcoming

"Cherokees and Franco-British Confrontation in the Tennessee Corridor, 1730-1760" Native South Vol. 7 (2014)

"The Republicans are the Nation?  Thomas Jefferson, William Duane, and the Evolution of the Republican Coalition, 1809 -1815," American Nineteenth Century History Vol. 14 #3 (2013)

“Thomas Jefferson and A Summary View of the Rights of British North America,” in Francis Cogliano, ed., A Companion to Thomas Jefferson (Blackwell Publishing, 2012)

“New Directions in Early Tennessee History, 1540-1815” Tennessee Historical Quarterly Vol. 68, #3 (Fall 2010)

“Political Culture and the Origins of a Party System in the Southern Ohio Valley: The Case of Early National Tennessee, 1796-1812,” Ohio Valley History Vol. 4, #4 (Winter 2004)

 “Land Speculation, Popular Democracy and Political Transformation on the Tennessee Frontier, 1780-1800,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly Vol. 61, #3 (Fall 2002)

 Assistant Editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Volume 5: May 1812-March 1813 (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Assistant Editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Volume 3: August 1810-June 1811 (Princeton University Press, 2006)

Assistant Editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Volume 2: November 1809-August 1810 (Princeton University Press, 2005)


In Progress:

Monograph:  Cherokees, Europeans, and Empire in the Tennessee Corridor, 1670-1763 (under consideration at the University of Illinois Press)

Journal-length Essay:  “‘The Indians of every denomination were free, and independent of us’: Anglo-American Explorations of Indian Slavery, Freedom, and Society in Virginia, 1650-1815”


Book Reviews in The Journal of American History, The Journal of Early American History, The Journal of Southern History, Ethnohistory, Florida Historical Quarterly, Georgia Historical Quarterly, North Carolina Historical Review, Ohio Valley History, Agricultural History, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Southern Cultures, and Presidential Studies Quarterly