- University of Notre Dame
- Assistant Professor of History
- Faculty Fellow (2020-2021)
- "Truth and Trust in the Age of Revolutions”
Katlyn Carter is a political and intellectual historian of the eighteenth-century Atlantic World, specializing in the American and French Revolutions. Her research focuses on the origins of modern representative democracy through the study of political practices and institutions.
Professor Carter is the author of Houses of Glass: Secrecy, Transparency, and the Birth of Representative Democracy, currently under contract with Yale University Press, in which she explores how decisions and debates about the place of secrecy in politics during the Age of Revolutions shaped both the conceptual evolution and practical implementation of representative democracy. She has published in French History and has a forthcoming article in the Journal of the Early Republic. Additionally, she has published numerous op-eds in The Washington Post, TIME, and the Age of Revolutions blog, for which she serves as an editor.
Her current book project, tentatively titled “Truth and Trust in the Age of Revolutions,” provides a political history of truth in the late eighteenth-century through an examination of the institutions established to promote it, including the free press, political clubs and popular societies, and representative legislatures. By tracing how people thought and talked about truth and trust, her research will build a bottom-up intellectual history aimed at providing context to pressing questions in contemporary democracies, including how do we arrive at truth in a democracy and how do we determine who to trust in seeking it?
Professor Carter’s research has been supported by fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, among other organizations. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Denouncing Secrecy and Defining Democracy in the Early American Republic
Exploring the intense and common critique of secrecy articulated by the Federalists' opponents both before and after ratification, this article sheds new light on the way in which the Constitution left open the question of what it meant to represent the people in government. The article traces how concerns about secrecy were amplified in the early republic, becoming a primary discourse in which Federalist policies were contested and serving as glue that bound former Antifederalists with Democratic-Republicans who had championed ratification, most notably James Madison. The article also examines debates about secrecy to underscore their centrality to the conception and construction of representative democracy. Attitudes about secrecy reflected underlying beliefs about the role of a representative and what made him legitimate as such. By asking why critics identified secrecy as threatening, the article uncovers the way in which political procedures were both reflective and constitutive of ideas about representative government, how it should work, and what made it legitimate.