Dr. Hilary Coulson is a 19th century U.S. historian who researches institutional histories of penitentiaries in the Early Republic of the United States. Her current research has a regional focus on the states of Virginia and Pennsylvania and examines how infrastructure developed in the North and the South, respectively. She explores how the institution of slavery impacted the development of the Virginia Penitentiary, and ultimately, the entire nation. She carries the study through Reconstruction to examine the impacts of the Civil War on the facility. Her work challenges the traditional narrative of complete failure in Southern institutions and develops a case for the significance of Southern infrastructure in the history of the United States. Ultimately, she argues the Southern penitentiary model, which started in Virginia, is the foundation for America’s modern prison industrial complex.
As a teacher, she has a broad array of interests. Her undergraduate degree was in Humanities, and she has an interdisciplinary approach to her field of study. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego. She also enjoys exploring 20th century geopolitical issues, particularly the impact of the two World Wars on modern society. One of her favorite things about being a professor is facilitating debates and helping students with argumentative writing.