Coolidge Professor of History
On leave 2021-2022
Maya Jasanoff’s teaching and research extend from the history of the British Empire to global history. She is the author of three prize-winning books. The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World (Penguin Press, 2017) examines the dynamics of modern globalization through the life and times of the novelist Joseph Conrad. A New York Times best book of 2017, The Dawn Watch won the Cundill Prize in History, and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize in Biography. Her previous book, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf, 2011), presents the first global history of the loyalists who fled the United States after the American Revolution and resettled elsewhere in the British Empire. Liberty's Exiles received numerous distinctions including the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-Fiction and the George Washington Book Prize; it was also shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize. Her first book, the Duff Cooper Prize-winning Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850 (Knopf, 2005), explores British expansion in India and Egypt through the lives of art collectors, and was a book of the year selection in publications including The Economist, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times.
Jasanoff is currently working on a wide-ranging book about the human preoccupation with ancestry, and in December, 2021, will deliver the Lawrence Stone Lectures at Princeton University on connections between fiction and history-writing in English.
Jasanoff enjoys teaching courses that bring out the "story" in history. In addition to classes on imperial history, she offers a multidisciplinary Gen Ed course on the topic of "Ancestry: Where Do We Come From and Why Do We Care?" and an upper-level seminar on the craft of writing historical narrative. In 2015 Jasanoff was named a Harvard College Professor for excellence in undergraduate teaching. From 2019 to 2022, she is a part-time Visiting Professor at Ahmedabad University in India, where she has been helping launch new curricula in the liberal arts.
Jasanoff has been a Guggenheim Fellow (2013), a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, a Kluge Chair at the Library of Congress, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study. She has participated in several BBC documentaries, and her essays and reviews regularly appear in publications including The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, and The New York Times. In 2017, Jasanoff was awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize in recognition of her contributions to non-fiction literature. She is chair of judges for the 2021 Booker Prize.
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