I am an associate professor of history at UC Santa Cruz interested in the history of globalization, science, drugs, and the long-term impacts of technological change. My book The Age of Intoxication (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) 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.

Trained as a historian of the early modern era, I’m currently working on two book projects: Tripping on Utopia is a revisionist history of psychedelic science in the twentieth century, forthcoming in 2024. A newer project is on colonialism, technological change, and debates about various forms of “disembodied intelligence” — an important conceptual precursor to AI — in the early modern world. Page proofs of my academic articles and book chapters can be found here.

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 continue to contribute, sporadically, to my history blog Res Obscura (2009-present). I was a co-founder of The Appendix, a journal of experimental and narrative history (2012-15).

Email: bebreen [at] ucsc [dot] edu

Twitter: @resobscura

CV: Available here (updated November 2020).

Short third person bio

Benjamin Breen is an associate professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, where he teaches classes on early modern Europe, the history of science, environmental history, and world history. From July 2015 to January 2017 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University, and a lecturer in Columbia’s history department. He grew up in California and earned his PhD in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015. He lives in Santa Cruz with Roya Pakzad.

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.