Benjamin Patrick Breen

Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University

ben [at] theappendix [dot] net
[download CV as PDF here]



Assistant Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz 

(On leave 2015-16; in residence beginning January 2017)

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows, Columbia University, 2015-16)

Lecturer, Department of History, Columbia University, 2015-16



 Ph.D. in History, University of Texas at Austin, 2015.

Dissertation:  “Tropical Transplantations: Drugs, Nature, and Globalization in the Portuguese and British Empires, 1640-1755.”

Committee:  Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (Chair), Julie Hardwick, Neil Kamil, Abena Dove Osseo-Asare, Harold Cook.

B.A. in Liberal Arts, Sarah Lawrence College, 2007.

Visiting student, University of Oxford, Wadham College, 2005-6.



Book manuscript:

 Tropical Transplantations: Drugs, Science, & Globalization in the Portuguese Tropics, 1640-1800 (in preparation)

Journal articles

“‘The Elks Are Our Horses’: Animals and Domestication in the New France Borderlands,” The Journal of Early American History, No. 3 (December, 2013), 188-205.

“No Man Is an Island: Early Modern Globalization, Knowledge Networks, and George Psalmanazar’s Formosa,” The Journal of Early Modern History, 17/4 (August, 2013), 391-417.

Hybrid Atlantics: Future Directions for the History of the Atlantic World,” History Compass, 18/8 (August, 2013), 597-609 (co-authored with Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra).

“Portugal, Early Modern Globalization and the Origins of the Global Drug Trade,” Perspectives on Europe, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring 2012), 84-88.

Chapters in edited volumes

“Tracing Pharmacological Networks in the Portuguese Tropics,” in Paula Findlen, ed. Empires of Knowledge: Scientific Networks in the Early Modern World (in preparation, forthcoming 2016)

“Meio ambiente e câmbios atlánticos,” in Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Luiz Estevam Fernandes, and Maria Cristina Martins, eds. Américas na primeira modernidade, 1492-1750 (Global Editora, forthcoming 2016)

“Empires on Drugs: Materia Medica and the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance,” in Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, ed. Entangled Histories of the Early Modern Iberian and British Empires (in preparation, forthcoming 2015)

Book reviews

Review of Sanjay Subrahmanyam, From the Tagus to the Ganges: Explorations in Connected History (Oxford University Press, 2011) in Not Even Past, Nov., 2014.

Review of Christopher P. Iannini, Fatal Revolutions Natural History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature (University of North Carolina Press, 2012) in The Archives of Natural History Vol. 40, Issue 1 (2013), 183-4.

Review of Ulinka Rublach, Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in the Renaissance (Oxford University Press, 2010) in Not Even Past, April, 2011.

Articles in preparation

             “Cannibal Medicine in the Early Modern World: a Reassessment.”

             “Slavers and Alchemists: Experimental Healing in the Portuguese Tropics, 1680-1740.”



2015       “The History of the New Age Movement,” Aeon Magazine, April 7, 2015.

2014      “The Pharmaca of Jozeph Coelho: A Family of Converso Apothecaries in Seventeenth- Century Coimbra,” The Recipes Project, November 20, 2014.

2014      “Animals in the Archive,” JSTOR Daily, October 29, 2014.

2014      “Lessons from Rare Book School,” The Paris Review Daily, October 23, 2014.

2014      “The Literature of Laughing Gas,” The Paris Review Daily, September 17, 2014.

2014      “Newton’s Needle: on Scientific Self-Experimentation,” Pacific Standard, July 24, 2014.

2014      “Wizards of the Coast,” The Paris Review Daily, May 29, 2014.

2014      “A Pirate Surgeon in Panama,” The Appendix, Vol. 2., No. 2 (March, 2014), 89-94.

2014      “Under the Influence,” Aeon Magazine, April 11, 2014.

2014      “Victorian Occultism and the Art of Synesthesia,” Public Domain Review, March 19, 2014.

2013       “Made in Taiwan? An Eighteenth-Century Frenchman’s Fictional Formosa,” The Appendix, Vol. 1, No. 3 (October, 2013), 83-90.

2013       “The Pre-Modern History of Outer Space,” The Atlantic, September 25, 2013.

2013       “From the Lab to the Street: How Three Illegal Drugs Came to Be,” The Atlantic,

 August 25, 2013.

2012       “A Brief History of the Apocalypse,” The Appendix, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Dec., 2012), 34-42.

2012       “Painting the New World,” The Public Domain Review, April 1, 2012.

2012       “Kava” and “the Iroquois,” Native Peoples of the World, edited by Steven L. Danver (Mesa Verde Publishing/M.E. Sharpe, 2012).




2015-         Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia Society of Fellows in the Humanities (3 years)

2015           Finalist, Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts

2014-6        Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School, Charlottesville, Virginia

2014-5        Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (12 months)

2014          Huntington Library and Lincoln College, Oxford Exchange Fellowship (1 month)

2013-14       Richard S. Dunn Dissertation Fellow, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania (6 months)

2013-4        Mellon-CES Dissertation Completion Fellowship (declined)

2013          Huntington Library Short-Term Fellowship, San Marino, CA

2013          New York Academy of Medicine Paul Klemperer Fellowship in the History of Medicine (1 month), New York City, NY

2013          John Carter Brown Library, Short-Term Fellowship (3 months), Providence, RI

2012         Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science (PACHS) Dissertation Research Fellowship (1 month) Philadelphia, PA

2011-2       Fulbright Graduate Research Fellowship to Portugal, Institute of International Education (9 months)

2011          Thesis Support Grant, American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, University    of Wisconsin-Madison

2011          Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) and Directorate-General of Portuguese Archives (DGARQ) Research Fellowship (1 month)

2011          Andrew W. Mellon Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship, Council for European Studies, Columbia University (2 months, Portugal)

2010         J.B. Harley Fellowship in the History of Cartography (1 month, UK)

2009-10     Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Academic Year Fellowship in Portuguese, U.S. Department of Education  (12 months)


2013-4       William C. Powers Jr. Graduate Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin

2012          Professional Development Award, UT Austin

2010         Dora Bonham Travel Grant, UT Austin (1 month, Brazil)

2010         Professional Development Award, UT Austin

2009         Liberal Arts Graduate Research Fellowship, UT Austin

2009         Churchill Scholarship, Department of British Studies, UT Austin

2008         Recruitment Fellowship and TA package, 2008-9 (fellowship); 2009-13 (TA-ship)

2005-7      Edward Harkness Scholarship, Sarah Lawrence College



2015        “The Maturing Blogosphere of Early America,” Roundtable participant, 21st Annual Omohundro Institute Conference, Chicago, IL, June 18, 2015 (scheduled)

2014       “Empires on Drugs: The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance and the Royal Society,” Entangled Histories of the Early Modern British and Iberian Empires, University of Texas at Austin, November 21, 2014.

2014        “Mapping Pharmacological Go-Betweens in the Portuguese Tropics,” Empires of Knowledge: Scientific Networks in the Early Modern World, Stanford University, May 3, 2014.

2014         “Drugs and Transcultural Exchanges in the Portuguese Empire,” Workshop, London School of Economics, January 10, 2014.

2013         “Early Modern Drugs and the Scientific Revolution,” New York Academy of  Medicine, November 7, 2013.

2013          “Tropical Transplantations,” Workshop, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, October 16, 2013.



2014        “Pharmacological Go-Betweens in the Atlantic World,” Annual Meeting of the History of Science Society, 9 November, 2014.

2014       “Pigs In Space: Early Modern Mariners and Island-Bound Animals,” 28th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, Southern Methodist University, October 9.

2014        “Debating Intoxication in the Atlantic World,” American Historical Association, Washington, DC, January, 2014 (panel co-organizer and presenter).

2013           Chair and commenter, “Lives,” Traces of Early America Conference, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, September 27, 2013.

2013         “Experiencing Tropical Drugs in Amazonia and Portuguese Africa, 1660-1730,” 19th Annual Omohundro Institute Conference, Johns Hopkins University, June 14, 2013.

2013          “Are Drugs Early Modern?” John Carter Brown Library Fellows Talk, Brown University, February 20, 2013.

2012          “‘The Treasury of Drugs Unlock’d’: Drogas from the Portuguese Tropics in an Era of Pandemics, c. 1650-1720,” pre-circulated paper workshop at 10th Annual Joint Atlantic Seminar for the History of Medicine, Yale University, October 5, 2012.

2012          “The Transnational Drug Trade and its Transformations: a View from the   Portuguese Empire, 1640-1750,” 19th International Conference of Europeanists, Council for European Studies, Boston, MA, March 22, 2012.

2011          “Travels in Paradise: Witnessing Science and the Supernatural in the Early Modern Tropics,” Association of American Geographers Annual Conference, Seattle, WA, April 15, 2011.

2010         “Varieties of Sacrilegious Experience in the Seventeenth Century,” North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS), Western Division Annual Conference, Austin TX, September 25, 2010.

2010         “A Social History of Falsehood: George Psalmanazar and Enlightenment Epistemologies of Empire,” Correspondence: Travel, Writing and Literatures of Exploration, c. 1750-c.1850, University of Edinburgh and the National Library of Scotland, April 8, 2010.



2015          Digital History Workshop, Institute of Historical Studies, UT Austin, April 1

2014          Guest lecturer, “Digital History Methods,” Course: “Making the Early Modern World,” Professor Julie Hardwick, September 18, 2014.

2012            Guest lecturer, “The Indians’ New World,” Course: “The United States, 1492- 1865,” Professor Robert Olwell, September 25, 2012.

2012         Teaching assistant, “The United States, 1492-1865,” Professor Robert Olwell, Department of History, UT Austin, Fall 2012.

2012         Seminar leader for Portuguese Fulbright applicants at Instituto Camões, Lisbon, Portugal, Spring, 2012.

2010       Teaching assistant and supplemental instructor, “Perspectives on Science and Mathematics,” Professor Alberto Martinez, Department of History, UT Austin, Fall 2010.

2009       Research Assistant, “Interrogating the Book of Negroes.” Director: Professor Cassandra Pybus (University of Sydney), Summer 2009.

2007       English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, ELS at Dominican University,

    San Rafael, California. June-August 2007.



2012-       Editor-in-chief and co-founder, The Appendix: a Journal of Narrative and Experimental History [], an online quarterly that experiments with digital methods in historical writing. Author of twelve articles and thirty-five Appendix blog posts (collectively read by over 500,000 unique visitors).

2010-13    Founder and editor, Res Obscura [], May 2010—present. Author of eighty-three posts with over 300,000 unique visitors.

2011         Assistant Editor, Book Review Editor, and social media coordinator, Not Even Past []. January—July, 2011.



2010        Editorial assistant, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Matthew Childs and James Sidbury,   

eds. The Black Urban Atlantic in the Era of the Slave Trade (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.



Portuguese:  advanced reading and good speaking abilities

French:        reading knowledge, some speaking

Spanish:       reading knowledge, some speaking

Latin:           reading knowledge

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