My dissertation investigates how elites maintained power in the antebellum US South. I first analyze the expansive system by which enslavers repressed and extracted labor from enslaved Americans. I construct a model of escape by enslaved laborers and pursuit by enslavers, where equilibrium behavior is a function of external political and economic conditions. I find that state repression does not always substitute for repression by the individual enslaver; still, enslavers' utility is weakly increasing in the efficacy of public policing. Critically, however, public policing efforts required manpower that enslavers were unable or unwilling to supply. Thus, the second part of the dissertation asks how Southern elites secured the cooperation of non-slaveholding whites. I construct a novel historical dataset on North Carolina school funds, and I present evidence that elites targeted policy benefits to non-elites when and where elites most demanded surveillance.
My research has most recently been published in the Journal of Historical Political Economy.