Laura Gillespie

Postdoctoral Research Assistant (Archival)

[email protected]

School of Humanities, University of Hull


As the Postdoctoral Research Assistant (Archival) for the Brightening the Covenant Chain project, I will travel across North America and the UK visiting key archival sites in support of the production of each of the outputs by the project Investigators. I will visit some of the most valuable and important repositories of information on Indigenous themes in the world, including the Newberry Library (Chicago); the Peabody Museum (Harvard University); Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa); and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. I am delighted to have the opportunity offered by this role to spend time at regional and national archives and in Special Collections.

I was awarded a Department for the Economy for Northern Ireland PhD Studentship in 2017 and gained my PhD from Queen’s University Belfast, entitled “‘Contraband’ Camps and the Development of African American Politics, 1860-1865” in 2022. I was also awarded the Larmor University Scholarship from 2017 to 2019, and the Helen Turtle Ramsey Scholarship in 2018 in support of my research. A research monograph resulting from this study will explore enslaved people’s politicization in the “contraband” or refugee camps established behind Union Army lines during the American Civil War. My book will be the first to focus on grassroots activism within these camps, and to make a specific argument about sovereignty, law and geography and how each influenced diplomacy between Black southerners and the federal government. The development of a distinct, African American politics emerged at both a regional and national level in many parts of the South during the conflict, and had a major impact on both the course of the war and the future of the Black freedom struggle. 

My previous roles include working as a fixed-term Associate Lecturer for the MA Arts Management Programme, Queen’s University Belfast, as an Intern for the History Department at the Bostonian Society, and as a research assistant for New York historian Niall O’Dowd. I have broad-based teaching experience and in spring 2021, was made an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Authority.


PhD in History, Queen’s University Belfast

MA in History (American Strand), Queen’s University Belfast

Joint BA (Hons.) in English and History, Queen’s University Belfast 

Professional Memberships:

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy