Welcome. I’m an associate professor of history at the UC Santa Cruz specializing in the history of science, medicine, globalization, and the impacts of technological change. 

My most recent book, Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science, is a revisionist history of the first era of psychedelic science. It will be published by Grand Central in January of 2024.

You can read more about Tripping on Utopia here, and preorder it here.

My first book The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade won the 2021 William H. Welch Medal from the American Society for the History of Medicine. A study of the early modern drug trade, Age of Intoxication explores how drug users and sellers in the British and Portuguese empires shaped imperialism, the Atlantic slave trade, and the origins of modern science and medicine in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. You can read more about it here or order it here.

I am also researching a book project project tentatively titled Ghosts of the Little Ice Age on early modern empires, the emergence of the concept of technological apocalypse, and ecological collapse in the period between 1600 and 1900.

In addition to my academic publications, I have contributed to The Paris Review DailyThe AtlanticSlate, Aeon, The Pacific StandardThe Chronicle of Higher EducationPublic Domain Reviewand Lapham’s Quarterly. I was a co-founder of The Appendix, a journal of experimental and narrative history (2012-15) and had a history blog, Res Obscura from 2009 to 2020. I’ve just decided to resurrect it as a Substack newsletter which you can subscribe to here.

Email: bebreen [at] ucsc [dot] edu

Twitter: @resobscura

CV: Here (updated June 2023)

PDFs of my academic articles and chapters are available here.

Complete contact info here.

Image credit: detail (with added animation) from an anonymous painting of a French drug storehouse, c. 1740. University R. Descartes in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences in Paris. 
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