Research Statement

I am an historian of slavery and abolition in the United States and the wider Atlantic World. My research and teaching interests include 19th century United States history, African American history, the history of science, medicine, and technology, and climate history. My first book, The Science of Aboliiton: How Slaveholders Became the Enemies of Progress (Yale, 2021), explores how men of science and Black and white abolitionists used scientific ideas to cast slaveholders as the enemies of science. It challenges the assumption that slaveholders, vis a vis scientific racism, had the upper hand when it came to scientific debates over slavery. My next book project, tentatily titled Carbon Conscripts: Slavery and the Origins of Climate Change, explores the role slave plantations played in laying the foundations for today's climate crisis.

My scholarship has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Slavery & Abolition, The Journal of the Early Republic, The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Early American Studies, as well as other journals. I recently published an essay on Frederick Douglass and science in the edited volume titled Frederick Douglass in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2022), and have forthcoming articles on climate change and global commodities in the edited volume Oxford Handbook of Commodities History (Oxford Uiversrity Press) and on science and slavery at Yale in an edited volume titledThinking with Scientific Instruments (Yale University Press, under contract). My reseach has been supported by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the American Philosophical Society, the Huntington Library, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the Omohundro Institute, and the African American & African Studies Department at the Ohio State University, among other institutions.

I received my Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, a B.A. in history from Princeton University, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. As a former journalist, I also continue to write for publications such as The New York Times, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and The New York Review of Books.

Research Keywords

  • History of Science and Technology
  • History of Medicine
  • Environmental History
  • Climate Change
  • Atlantic World
  • African-American Studies
  • 19th Century U.S.

Creative Research

Presentations

  • Yale University, Peabody Museum of Natural History. Conference Paper: "Silliman, Science, and Colonization at Yale". Conference Paper, Accepted, 06/02/2022.
  • ASEH (American Society for Environmental History) Annual Conference. Paper: “Slavery’s Carbon Footprint: Carbon Emissions for Tobacco Plantations in Colonial America” . Conference Paper, Accepted, 03/25/2022.
  • Columbia University - Lehman Center for American History: "The Science of Abolition". Invited Talk/Keynote, Accepted, 03/04/2022.
  • Tanner Center for the Humanities, University of Utah - "The Science of Abolition". Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/17/2022.
  • Library Company of Philadelphia - "The Science of Abolition". Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/01/2022.
  • Yale University - Beinecke Library Talks. Talk: "Science and Slavery at Yale". Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 11/15/2021.
  • Oxford University. Roundtable: "Slavery and Medicine in the Black Atlantic," with Prof's Sasha Turner, Katherine Paugh, and Suman Seth. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/26/2021.
  • Yale University: Yale and Slavery Project. Guest Lecturer: "Slavery and Science at Yale.". Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 07/12/2021.
  • OAH (Organization of American History), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “Black Thought in the Age of Slavery: African American Intellectual Histories Before Emancipation” . Conference Paper, Presented, 04/15/2021.
  • AAIHS (African American Intellectual History Society), Annual Conference Paper: “The Intellectual Worlds of Benjamin Banneker: Translating African Vernacular Knowledge into ‘Legitimate’ Western Science”. Conference Paper, Presented, 03/18/2021.
  • American Philosophical Society Invited Speaker: "The Science of Abolition: How Slaveholders Became the Enemies of Progress". Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/12/2021.
  • Stanford University Medical School, Dept. of Urology: Health & Racial Equity Series Invited Talk: “Routine Racism as Routine Medicine: Three Short Episodes in a Very Long History”. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 11/17/2020.
  • SHEAR (Society for Historians of the Early American Republic), Annual Conference (cancelled due to Covid-19) Chair: “Crosscurrents of Democracy: Political Culture in the Atlantic World” . Other, Other, 06/01/2020.
  • ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “Rethinking Banneker: Reluctant Abolitionist, Avid Astronomer”. Conference Paper, Presented, 10/23/2019.
  • SHEAR (Society for Historians of the Early American Republic), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “Rethinking Banneker: Reluctant Abolitionist, Avid Astronomer”. Conference Paper, Presented, 07/18/2019.
  • Princeton University, Conference: “Law, Difference, and Healthcare: Structural Racism in Medico-Legal History" Invited Paper: “Slavery, Health, and Healing Now: The State of the Field” . Conference Paper, Presented, 06/06/2019.
  • University of Pennsylvania, McNeil Center for Early American Studies: Friday Seminar Invited Presenter: “Benjamin Banneker: Avid Astronomer, Reluctant Abolitionist” . Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/14/2019.
  • SHA (Southern Historical Association), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “The Science of Slavery: How Science, Technology, and Finance Made Slavery Modern” . Conference Paper, Presented, 11/01/2018.
  • The Johns Hopkins University, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Faculty Colloquium Invited Presenter: “Banneker’s Almanacs as Technologies of Liberation” . Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/03/2018.
  • OAH (Organization of American History), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “Antislavery Science: Yellow Fever and the Failure of the Abolitionist Movement in the 1790s” . Conference Paper, Presented, 04/26/2018.
  • Carnegie Mellon University, Bicentennial of Frederick Douglass Invited Lecturer: “Frederick Douglass and the Emancipatory Power of Science”. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 03/14/2018.
  • AHA (American Historical Association), Annual Conference Paper: “Slave Revolt, Spanish Subversion, and U.S. Diplomacy in the Southwest Borderlands, 1790-1820” . Conference Paper, Presented, 01/03/2018.
  • Harvard University - Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Global American Studies Symposium Invited Presenter: “The Science of Antislavery: Scientists, Antislavery, and the Myth of Slavery’s Backwardness” . Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 12/07/2017.
  • ICHST (International Congress for the History of Science and Technology), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “Sierra Leone as Science Lab: Bioprospecting and the Early Antislavery Movement, 1787-1830” . Conference Paper, Presented, 07/20/2017.
  • Yale University – Conference: “Critical Histories and Activist Futures: Science, Medicine, and Racial Violence” Paper: “Natural History Collecting in a Slaveholding Republic: Benjamin Silliman and the Gibbs Collection at Yale” . Conference Paper, Presented, 02/17/2017.
  • HSS (History of Science Society), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “The Antislavery Origins of Big Pharma: William Allen, West Africa and the Birth of GlaxoSmithKlein” . Conference Paper, Presented, 11/11/2016.
  • OIEAHC (Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture), Annual Conference Panel Organizer / Paper: “Sierra Leone as Science Lab: Making Scientific Knowledge in the Age of Revolution and Abolitionism, 1787-1807” . Conference Paper, Presented, 06/17/2016.

Grants, Contracts & Research Gifts

  • Carbon Conscripts: Slavery and the Origins of Climate Change. PI: Eric Herschthal. Seed Grant Fellowship - Univ of Utah, College of the Humanities, 03/01/2021 - 03/01/2022. Total project budget to date: $7,000.00
  • The Science of Antislavery. PI: Eric Herschthal. Postdoctoral Fellow in Race and Medicine - The Ohio State University, Afircan American & African Studies Dept., 08/01/2018 - 08/01/2020. Total project budget to date: $0.00
  • The Science of Antislavery. PI: Eric Herschthal. Postdoctoral Fellowship - Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (NYPL) - Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, 08/01/2017 - 08/01/2018. Total project budget to date: $0.00
  • The Science of Antislavery. PI: Eric Herschthal. Pre-Doctoral Fellowship - Univ. of Pennsylvania, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 08/01/2016 - 08/01/2017. Total project budget to date: $0.00
  • The Science of Antislavery. PI: Eric Herschthal. American Philosophical Society, 02/01/2016 - 02/29/2016. Total project budget to date: $0.00
  • The Science of Antislavery. PI: Eric Herschthal. The Hungtington Library, 05/01/2015 - 05/31/2015. Total project budget to date: $0.00
  • The Intellectual Worlds of Benjamin Banneker. PI: Eric Herschthal. Omohundro Institute for Research in African American Early Print Culture, 10/01/2014 - 10/31/2014. Total project budget to date: $0.00
  • Slavery, Science, and the Enlightenment. PI: Eric Herschthal. University of Miami (FL) - Cuban Heritage Collection Research Grant, 06/02/2014 - 06/30/2014. Total project budget to date: $0.00

Research/Scholarship Projects

  • Carbon Conscripts: Slavery and the Origins of Climate Change (in progress). PI: Eric Herschthal. 02/01/2021 - present.
  • The Science of Abolition: How Slaveholders Became the Enemies of Progress (Yale, 2021). PI: Eric Herschthal. 01/01/2021 - 05/25/2021.

Publications

  • Eric Herschthal & John Brooke (2022). "Up in Smoke: Slavery, Tobacco, and the Plantationocene in the Early Chesapeake" (work in progress). n.d. Accepted, 05/27/2022.
  • Eric Herschthal (2022). "Science, Slavery, and Colonialism at Yale: Building Yale's Scientific Institutions, 1780-1860". Yale University Press. Accepted, 02/25/2022.
  • Eric Herschthal & John Brooke & Jed O. Kaplan (2022). "Climate Change and Global Commodities". Oxford Handbook of Global Commodities History (Oxford University Press, accepted; forthcoming), eds. Jonathan Curry-Machado, Jean Stubbs, William Clarence-Smith, and Jelmer Vos. Accepted, 02/01/2022.
  • Eric Herschthal (2022). “Slavery, Health, and Healing Now: The State of the Field". Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. Vol. 77, 1-23. Published, 01/01/2022.
  • Eric Herschthal (2021). “What Kind of Abolitionist Was Benjamin Banneker? Reluctant Activism and the Intellectual Lives of Early Black Americans". Slavery & Abolition. Vol. 42, 669-690. Published, 10/15/2021.
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/014403...
  • Eric Herschthal (2021). "Frederick Douglass, Science, and Technology". Frederick Douglass in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2021), ed. Michael Roy. Published, 06/01/2021.
  • Eric Herschthal (2021). The Science of Abolition: How Slaveholders Became the Enemies of Progress. Yale University Press. Published, 05/25/2021.
    https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300236804/scie...
  • Eric Herschthal & Leon McDougle, Leta Hendricks, Quinn Capers IV, Simone C. Drake (2020). “Discovering a Hidden Figure of Service and Leadership: The Reverend Charles Edgar Newsome, MD,” . Journal of National Medical Association. Vol. 112, 24-27. Published, 02/01/2020.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/...
  • Eric Herschthal (2017). “The Science of Antislavery in the Early Republic: The Case of Dr. Benjamin Rush". Early American Studies. Vol. 15:2, 274-307. Published, 05/01/2017.
    https://muse.jhu.edu/article/653138
  • Eric Herschthal (2016). “Slaves, Spaniards and Subversion in Early Louisiana: The Persistent Fears of Black Revolt and Spanish Collusion in Territorial Louisiana, 1803-1812". Journal of the Early Republic. Vol. 36:2, 283-311. Published, 06/15/2016.
    https://muse.jhu.edu/article/620989/summary