I am a historian of science, medicine, globalization, and the cultural and intellectual history of the early modern world, with a special focus on drug history.

From August 2015 to January 2017 I was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University, where I was also a lecturer in the history department.

I am now an Associate Professor of History at UC Santa Cruz. At UCSC, I teach classes on early modern Europe and the early modern world (with a focus on the Portuguese and British Empires); the global history of science, technology, and medicine; and the history of drugs, broadly construed.

I am currently accepting graduate students in these and related fields.

I earned my PhD in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015, where my advisor was Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra. My research in graduate school was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship to Portugal (2011-2012), a Mellon/ACLS dissertation fellowship, and grants from the Huntington Library, the John Carter Brown Library, and the McNeil Center at the University of Pennsylvania. My dissertation “Tropical Transplantations: Drugs, Nature, and Globalization in the Portuguese and British Empires, 1640-1755” won the best dissertation award from UT Austin and became the basis for my first book, The Age of Intoxication.

I have spoken about the history of drugs on PRX’s The World with Marco Werman and Radio New Zealand and have written numerous public-facing articles, including two — on George Psalmanazar and animal history — that were selected as recommended reading by The New Yorker.

I was a co-founder of The Appendix, a public-facing journal of experimental and narrative history (2012-15) and I am strongly committed to the public communication of history and community-engaged scholarship in general. Please get in touch if you think I could be of assistance as an interview subject, speaker, historical consultant, or (especially!) if you are a student interested in any of the topics I study — I am always happy to offer advice.


Email: bebreen [at] ucsc [dot] edu

Twitter: @resobscura

My faculty profile at UC Santa Cruz

Full contact info can be found here.

Third-Person Biography (Short)

Benjamin Breen is an associate professor of history at UC Santa Cruz. 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, where his doctoral advisor was Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra. His first book, The Age of Intoxication, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2019. A second book, Tripping on Utopia, will be published by Grand Central in 2024. He lives in Santa Cruz, California with his partner Roya Pakzad and their daughter Yara.

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