Blair Smith

Temporary Lecturer and Tutor


PhD title awarded Nov 2013

The Rise of the New Elite: The Evolution of Leadership in Kentucky, c.1770-1800


Utilising Max Weber's categorisations for legitimate authority, this thesis investigates how Kentucky society was organised from first settlement, through to the end of the eighteenth century, and how this society evolved.Weber’s categorisations will be used to investigate who assumed authority at each stage of development, what made this authority legitimate, and how understandings of legitimacy evolved over time. Two competing understandings of legitimacy are central to this investigation. This thesis focusses on the efforts of elite settlers to reinstate an acceptance of their leadership as a traditionally-established norm among the community, and the role of the charismatic frontier Big Man. While gentlemen based their authority on landholding and a freedom from manual labour, the frontier Big Man legitimised authority through demonstrations of ability and a capacity for dramatic action. Both methods however, could only be gain legitimacy if they reflected the collective approval of the local community. Legitimate authority reflected the issues and concerns of settlers at a particular time. Investigating what the basis of traditionally-established norms were among elite society in Kentucky, the influence of a hunting culture throughout the backcountry, the role of the militia as a force for social organisation, the importance of land and property ownership, and the role of the landscape and architecture will demonstrate different concepts of authority vied for legitimacy in the Kentucky. Through this investigation, this thesis will not only account for the presence of men such as Daniel Boone in positions of social authority, but also account for how charismatic Big Men were unable to maintain prominence. The collective approval for legitimising authority was constantly in flux. The local concerns which secured charismatic authority in the 1770s and 1780s, did not apply to the Kentucky of the 1790s. This thesis argues that as Kentucky evolved, the nature of authority evolved with it to reflect the needs of the wider community. That authority was only legitimate, so long as leaders maintained the collective approval of those they held authority over.



Current Role: Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, University of Dundee

I have taught on the following modules as a postgraduate teaching assistant, responsible for tutorial groups, marking essays and other coursework.

DUAL Summer School

  • The Making of the British Atlantic Empire (2012 Module co-Coordinator/Tutor/Lecturer).
  • The American West, 1800 – Present (2013 Module Coordinator/Tutor/Lecturer).

Level One and Level Two History

  • Age of Revolutions and Twentieth Century Britain (2008-present)
  • Early Modern Europe (2009-2011)
  • The Rise of Atlantic Empires, 1500-1750 (2012-present)

History Evening Module

  • This Rise of Atlantic Empires, 1500-1750 (2012-present Module Tutor/Coordinator)

Level Two American Studies

  • The Shaping of Early America to 1877 (2008-present)
  • The Development of Modern America from 1877 (2008-present)
  • America: Land of the Free? (2008-present)

Courses for Adults

  • 'The Crowded Prairie': The American West 1800 to Present (2013-present Lecturer)


My teaching on the above modules has been fully assessed by the various module coordinators.



'Life in the Woods: The Influence of Hunting on Frontier Leadership in Revolutionary Kentucky', in U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal, Issue 16: Spring 2010, ISSN: 1472-9091.

'Them That Ain't Cowards Follow Me': Leadership in Early Kentucky and the Legitimacy of Collective Approval. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society (under consideration)

'Proud of their Indian-Like Dress': Hunting and the Masculine Ideal on the Kentucky Frontier. Ohio Valley History (under consideration)