Eric Oakley

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., UNC-Greensboro

Office: Brewster A-304

Email: Eric O. Oakley

Phone: 252-328-1031


Eric Oakley is a scholar of the maritime history of Early America. Oakley currently concentrates upon the imperial, environmental, and indigenous dimensions of U.S. maritime activities in the Pacific Ocean during the long nineteenth century. His methodology lies at the intersection of cultural and economic history. His current monograph project, Columbia at Sea: Early American Voyagers and Imperialism in the Pacific World, examines the first U.S. circumnavigations of the globe and their pivotal role in establishing an American sphere of influence across the North Pacific. Oakley is also the founder of the Pacific Voyages Database. The public database uses shipping records to triangulate on fragmentary voyages, measure vectors and volumes of trade, and bring quantitative rigor to the historiography of the Pacific. Likewise, Oakley is an editor of the forthcoming anthology Tar Trek: The Liquid that Sealed Globalization, a collection that investigates the culture, communities, and economics of the transatlantic tar industry during the age of sail.

Oakley holds a B.A. in German Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill (1999), an M.A. in Liberal Studies from Duke University (2006), and an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from UNC-Greensboro (2009/2014). He previously served as Visiting Instructor of History at Guilford College (2015-16), as Senior Lecturer of History at Kennesaw State University (2018-2023), and he is a regular consultant to the Duke University Program in Education (2014- ). Oakley is also the recipient of the Visiting Researcher Fellowship at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland (2022). His service to the profession includes the presidency of the Southeast World History Association (2022-2023) and the program committee of the Baltic Connections Conference (2023- ). His teaching areas include Colonial and Revolutionary America, the Early American Republic, Atlantic and Pacific World, Sea Power, and Historical Methods. He holds awards in teaching excellence from UNC-Greensboro (2014) and Kennesaw State University (2022).

Selected Publications:

Book Reviews

Review of David L. Nicandri, Captain Cook Rediscovered: Voyaging to the Icy Latitudes (Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2020), Pacific Northwest Quarterly 112:2 (Spring 2022)

Review of James K. Barnett, ed., Captain Cook’s Final Voyage: The Untold Story from the Journals of James Burney and Henry Roberts (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 2018), Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 110:1 (Winter 2018/2019)

Review of Charles R. Menzies, People of the Saltwater: An Ethnography of Git Lax M’oon (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 107:3 (Summer 2016)

Review of Jeff Oliver, Landscapes and Social Transformations on the Northwest Coast (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010), Ethnohistory, 58:2 (Spring 2011)

Review of Kay Atwood, Chaining Oregon: Surveying the Public Lands of the Pacific Northwest, 1851-1855 (Newark, OH: McDonald & Woodward, 2008), Terrae Incognitae: The Journal for the History of Discoveries, 42:1 (September 2010)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“On the Improvement of Sources in Maritime History: Lessons from the Pacific Voyages Database.” International Journal of Maritime History. Forthcoming, 2024

“A Common Denominator: The Materiality of Information in the Pacific China Trade, 1785-1825” in Oceans of Humanity: Examining China’s Maritime Cultural Exchanges from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, eds. Sarah Ward and Tânia Casimiro (Amsterdam University Press). Forthcoming, 2024.

“Ships—A Target of Indigenous Resistance in the Pacific.” World History Bulletin 37, No. 2, Special Issue: Resistance in World History–500 Years Since the Fall of Tenochtitlán (Fall/Winter 2021)

“‘Very Dull & No Business Doing’: A Reassessment of the American Sandalwood Trade Between Hawaii and China, 1790-1832.” Configurações 26 (December 2020)

Courses Offered:

HIST 5520: Maritime History of the Western World Since 1815
HIST 6525: Sea Power, 480 BC to the present