About us

The David K. E. Bruce Centre for American Studies (DBC) was founded in 1969 by Professor D.K. Adams to further and encourage research in matters relating to the United States. It is named for the distinguished American diplomat who was then nearing the end of his eight years as US ambassador in London.

The DBC is housed in a dedicated research office in Chancellor's Building (CBB1.030) at Keele University in Staffordshire. Half-hourly trains from Stoke-on-Trent to London (c. 90 minutes) and similarly frequent train services to Manchester (45 minutes), Birmingham (60 minutes) and Nottingham (60 minutes) offer easy access to Keele and from here to other locations with significant American Studies resources. Keele is close to a number of international airports, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham (East Midlands).

All academic staff and postgraduate students focused on North America-related topics at Keele University are members of the Bruce Centre. Others may seek membership by application to the director. The director chairs a committee which has responsibility for managing the centre.

The David Bruce Centre for American Studies supports research relating to North America. In American Literature and Culture, Bruce Centre members’ expertise covers a range of nineteenth and twentieth century authors. Recent publications and ongoing projects examine Henry James; Richard Brautigan; James Huneker; contemporary American fiction; Quakerism and American Literature; The Clash, Punk and transnationalism; the Beat movement, with an emphasis on Franco-American cultural exchange and on the work of William Burroughs; literary geographies in Québécois and Canadian novels; and Québécois regional fiction. In U.S. History, recent and current research includes studies of gender in the Civil War; Reconstruction in the South; and Civil Rights-era politics, race relations and social provision. The newest research in U.S. Politics explores education policy in Europe and the United States, the Trump presidency and presidential rhetoric.

The Bruce Centre is dedicated to furthering the study and understanding of North America across disciplines, among staff, students and the wider public. In particular it seeks to remove barriers to education, advance research excellence among staff and research students and engage with Keele's mission for social inclusion.

American Studies faculty are involved in a wide range of academic advisory committees, editorial boards, research networks, and scholarly organizations. These include the AHRC Peer Review College, the Organization of American History (OAH), the European Beat Studies Network, the American Politics Group (APG), the British Association for American Studies (BAAS), Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) and British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH).

The Bruce Centre also regularly organizes international symposia and colloquia that frequently result in edited volumes beginning with American Literature Landscapes (Vision Press, 1988). Among the edited collections are The Civil War and Slavery Reconsidered: Negotiating the Peripheries (Routledge, 2019), American Evangelicals and the 1960s (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), The Syndrome Syndrome: Diseases and Disorders in Contemporary Fiction (Routledge, 2013), and America’s ‘Special Relationships’: Foreign and Domestic Aspects of the Politics of Alliance (Routledge, 2009).

Upcoming events include a symposium on gender, reproduction and motherhood in early America. Additionally, the Centre promotes wider understanding of the United States through an established seminar programme, visiting fellowships, postgraduate research grants and sponsorship of American Studies events.

All enquiries should be addressed to the centre’s director, Dr David Ballantyne (d.t.ballantyne@keele.ac.uk).

A Portrait of David Bruce

A Portrait of David Bruce

David Kirkparick Este Bruce was born in 1898 in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied at Princeton and the Universities of Virginia and Maryland, and served in the army in both wars. In 1944 he was amongst the advanced party liberating Paris, but he arrived only to find Ernest Hemingway already ensconced in the writer's favourite bar!

Bruce was a member of the Maryland and Virginia Houses of Delegates (1924-6 and 1939-42 respectively) and he entered the diplomatic service in 1926, a service to which he was to return after the war, entering the European Cooperation Administration in 1948. He was US ambassador to France (1949-52), West Germany (1957-59) and Great Britain (1961-69), playing a leading role in assisting the postwar recovery of Western Europe. David Bruce died in 1977.

The late Professor D.K. Adams wrote

Ambassador Bruce was an honorary graduate of Keele University and a man whom we held in the highest regard. Those who came to know him also felt deep affection. With his death in 1977 the world of diplomacy lost one of its outstanding practitioners.

Bruce was an old-fashioned diplomat, literate, courteous and almost serene, for whom language was a means of communication rather than obfuscation. He did not seek headlines, and saw no good in public posturing; nor did he find it necessary, unlike some stars, to get a daily shot of adrenalin from the managing of the media. He devoted himself to accommodating the interests of his country to the world environment, and believed that principles should pervade positions even if they could not always dictate policies.

His experience, and the cultural world that he inhabited was international, not provincial; but he had a confident sense of place and his roots were deep in the Maryland and Virginia societies of his family background. As U.S. Ambassador to Paris, Bonn and London, head of the Vietnam Peace talks, first head of the Liaison Office in Peking, Ambassador to NATO, he built a record unsurpassed in the history of the American Foreign Service.

From 1976 the Bruce Centre sponsored a series of lectures in his honour that were given by Lord Home, Roy Jenkins, George Ball, Sir Harold Wilson, Sir Edward Heath.

Statements of commendation

“This institution’s activities as well as those of the former School of American Studies have secured Keele an impressive reputation on European networks of American Studies. The Centre’s congenial atmosphere and productive atmosphere makes it an ideal transatlantic and European meeting point for interdisciplinary research on North America…”
Professor Frank Schumacher, University of Western Ontario

“The interactions that I had were all very positive. Using Keele as a base, I was also able to travel to other parts of the UK to find materials related not just to the above-mentioned research but also to other on-going projects and to teaching.”
Professor Nicholas Pagan, Eastern Mediterranean University

“The location’s own advantages were reinforced by a friendly, relaxed, and supportive atmosphere. The Postgraduate Induction day…provided an excellent opportunity for students to interact socially and begin forming academic networks. I also appreciated the chance I was given to attend the Bruce Centre seminars, which I found instructive and stimulating in many ways…. The experience was, in short, fruitful and deeply rewarding…”
Vicente R. Rosselló Hernández, University of La Laguna, Spain

“The Bruce Centre at the University of Keele has provided hundreds of graduate students with a new insight into the history and political life of America and has strengthened the special relationship which is central to the foreign policy of my own country. Not only has the Centre played a role in the direct education of its students, but it has been instrumental in organizing teams of European historians concerned with America. It has promoted the understanding of America and its relations with the United Kingdom which David Bruce advanced so sympathetically.”
George W Ball, former US Under-Secretary of State

“The Bruce Centre, established in 1969 at Keele University, is justifiably regarded as a centre of international research in the field of American Studies. It undertakes a dynamic and robust programme of activities which serve to benefit the students at Keele University as well as outside organisations and the general public. I warmly support its work.”
The Rt Hon Edward Heath KG, MBE, MP, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

“Having worked in the American Studies field now for 23 years, and having seen programs from many and very differently organized American Studies departments, I think the one at the University of Keele’s David Bruce Centre is one of the very best in terms of structure, balance between the various skills necessary to critically analyze American culture (broadly conceived) and to make them aware of some of the latter’s major problems. The best tribute one can pay is that I have learned from it and will securely benefit from it next time ewe shall redesign our own program.”
Professor Knud Krakau, John F Kennedy Institute, Free University, Berlin

“The Bruce Centre at Keele plays a key role in Europe in terms of the quality it offers its students in the field of American Studies. Not only its study programmes, also its international research colloquia are first rate.”
Dr. Cornelis A van Minnen, Director, Roosevelt Study Centre, Middleburg, The Netherlands and President, American Studies Network

“The David Bruce Centre has made an outstanding contribution to both teaching and research in the field of American Studies. It has established itself as one of the leading institutions in the UK and it has an increasingly impressive reputation across the Atlantic.”
Richard Maidment, Vice Chancellor for Academic Student Affairs, United States Open University

The David Bruce Centre for American Studies supports research relating to North America. In American Literature and Culture, Bruce Centre members’ expertise covers a range of nineteenth and twentieth century authors.  Recent publications and ongoing projects examine Henry James; Richard Brautigan; James Huneker; contemporary American fiction; Quakerism and American Literature; The Clash, Punk and transnationalism; the Beat movement, with an emphasis on Franco-American cultural exchange and on the work of William Burroughs; literary geographies in Québécois and Canadian novels; and Québécois regional fiction. In U.S. History, recent and current research includes studies of gender in the Civil War; Reconstruction in the South; and Civil Rights-era politics, race relations and social provision. The newest research in U.S. Politics explores education policy in Europe and the United States, the Trump presidency and presidential rhetoric.

The Bruce Centre is dedicated to furthering the study and understanding of North America across disciplines, among staff, students and the wider public.  In particular it seeks to remove barriers to education, advance research excellence among staff and research students and engage with Keele's mission for social inclusion.

American Studies faculty are involved in a wide range of academic advisory committees, editorial boards, research networks, and scholarly organizations. These include the AHRC Peer Review College, the Organization of American History (OAH), the European Beat Studies Network, the American Politics Group (APG), the British Association for American Studies (BAAS), Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) and British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH).

The Bruce Centre also regularly organizes international symposia and colloquia that frequently result in edited volumes beginning with American Literature Landscapes (Vision Press, 1988). Among the edited collections are American Evangelicals and the 1960s (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), The Syndrome Syndrome: Diseases and Disorders in Contemporary Fiction (Routledge, 2013), America’s ‘Special Relationships’: Foreign and Domestic Aspects of the Politics of Alliance (Routledge, 2009) and a forthcoming volume entitled The Civil War and Slavery Reconsidered: Negotiating the Peripheries (Routledge).

Upcoming events include a symposium on gender, reproduction and motherhood in early America.  Additionally, the Centre promotes wider understanding of the United States through an established seminar programme, visiting fellowships, postgraduate research grants and sponsorship of American Studies events.

All enquiries should be addressed to the centre’s director, Dr. David Ballantyne (d.t.ballantyne@keele.ac.uk).