Sophie J. FitzMaurice

PhD Candidate

North American History

My dissertation is an environmental and material history of the telegraph system in the long nineteenth century. My project demonstrates the multitude of ways in which the non-human world intruded upon the supposedly space-annihilating telegraph, and explores the implications of the telegraph's materiality for the projection and expansion of state power both within and beyond the contiguous United States. 

Research Interests

  • US and the world
  • Environmental history
  • History of technology
  • Animal history


MPhil in Historical Studies, University of Cambridge, 2014.

BA in History, University of Oxford, 2012. 

Selected Fellowships & Awards

Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Research Fellowship (2022-2023)

Rosenberry Graduate Fellowship, Forest History Society (2022)

Hagley Exploratory Research Grant (2022)

George H. Guttridge Prize for American Colonial History, UC Berkeley (2020)

John L. Simpson Memorial Fellowship, Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley (2017-2018)

Leo Lowenthal Memorial Prize, UC Berkeley (2017)

History Graduate Seminar Paper Prize, UC Berkeley (2016)

Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant, Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies (2016)

Pre-Dissertation Research Grant, Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley (2015)

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, UC Berkeley (2015)

ASEH/National Science Foundation Travel Grant (2015)

Morrison Fellowship, UC Berkeley (2014-2017)

A. Bartlett Giamatti Fellowship (declined), Yale University (2014)

Anderson Fund Research Grant, Society for Nautical Research (2014)

UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Studentship (2013-2014)

Christopher Bushell Prize for Best History Thesis, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford (2012)

Sidgwick Prize for Undergraduate Excellence, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford (2011)

Exhibition in History, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford (2010-2011)

Selected Conference Papers and Presentations

“Communicating Disease in Nineteenth Century America: The Role of the Telegraph in Shaping Public Responses to Epidemics,” American Historical Association (AHA) Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, January 2023 (forthcoming).

“Network of Wood: Nature, Work, and Technology in the Telegraph System, 1870–1920,” National Museum of American History (NMAH) Colloquium, Washington D.C., December 2022.

“Telegraph Offices and Pole Yards as Sites of Labor, 1865–1900,” Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Annual Meeting, New Orleans, November 2022.

“Gender, Work, and Space in the Nineteenth Century Telegraph Office,” Western Association of Women Historians (WAWH) Annual Conference, Los Angeles, April 2022.

“Woodpecker Economics: Woodpeckers, Telegraph Poles, and the Science of Economic Ornithology,” American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) Annual Conference, Eugene, April 2022.

“Economic Entomology and the Anthropomorphization of Insects, c. 1865–1930,” Humans, Ticks and Insects in Multispecies Networks workshop, Humans and Ticks in the Anthropocene Project (HUTI), University of Turku, Finland, March 2022.

“Animal Rights,” guest lecture for History 124B: The United States from World War II, University of California, Berkeley, November 2021.

“Wood Scarcity, Intergroup, Conflict and Technological Transfer in the Great Basin, 1840s–1850s,” Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) Forty-Second Annual Meeting (virtual), July 2021.

“Animals and the Industrial Revolution,” guest lecture for Global Studies 45: Survey of World History, University of California, Berkeley, March 2021.

“Lines in the Desert: Communications Infrastructure and the Bighorn Sheep,” Ninth International Conference on the Constructed Environment, Guimarães, Portugal, May 2019.

“Telegraphy and Mass Communication in Antebellum America,” guest lecture for History 122AC:Antebellum America: The Advent of Mass Society, University of California, Berkeley, April 2017.

“Arctic Expansion and the U.S. Marine Economy, circa 1850–1900,” American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) Annual Conference, Washington D.C., March 2015.