Brian Wright

Graduate Student

I study the history of the United States and specialize in the American West. My dissertation, Conquest on Paper: Archives and the American West, explores how documentation shaped Western life and framed the construction of Western history. The project follows the North American West’s paper trail, from the documentary regimes of Europe’s invading empires to the administrative plunder and legal battles of Anglo-American conquest. It investigates two connected processes: how certain kinds of documents structured the colonization of the region, and then how antiquarians and scholars culled the pilfered record to theorize the American “frontier” experience. I show that key episodes in the history and historiography of the West—from property battles to pioneer hagiography to Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis”—revolved around the lives of historical documents and their couriers. Ultimately, the dissertation hopes to investigate what was and what could not be captured by the rulers of colonial space and the chroniclers of regional history.

I also work as Graduate Assistant in the Western Americana division at Princeton University Library. I collaborate with Curator Gabriel Swift to acquire manuscript and print material for scholarly research, produce exhibitions to increase Princeton’s profile in the field of Western American history, and leverage Special Collections material to advance Princeton’s teaching mission.

I passed my general exams with distinction in three fields: U.S. History, 1787-1920 (Wilentz and Isenberg), The American West (Sandweiss), and Global Race, Indigeneity, and Colonialism (Lozano).

I graduated with Honors from the University of California, Davis, where I completed one research project on the annexation of Texas and another on nativism and ethnic violence in 1850s California. While at UC Davis, I received the Lang Prize for Undergraduate Information Research and the History Department Walter Woodfill Prize for Best Undergraduate Research Paper.

Year of Study
Degree Candidate
Area of Interest
Environmental History
Legal History
Native American
Political History
Race & Ethnicity
Home Department & Other Affiliations
17th & 18th Centuries
19th Century
American West
Latin America and the Caribbean
United States