Melissa Morris

Melissa Morris

Field: United States
Advisor: Christopher Brown
Year: 2010

Melissa N. Morris is a historian of the Atlantic World, from the beginnings of colonization through the early nineteenth century. She is particularly interested in the cross-cultural interactions that defined colonial encounters, the role of plants in driving European expansion, the dissemination of geographic and agricultural knowledge, and colonial failures. During the 2016-17 academic year she is the Richard S. Dunn dissertation fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Her dissertation, “Cultivating Colonies: Tobacco and the Upstart Empires, 1580-1660,” considers how tobacco helped the Dutch, English, and French establish empires in the Americas. It looks in particular at how they relied upon indigenous and Spanish assistance to learn to cultivate tobacco, a crop they grew in all of their early colonies.

Melissa has done research in the Netherlands, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Her work has been supported by the John Carter Brown Library, the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, Colonial Williamsburg, the Huntington Library, the Lloyd Library and Museum, and the New Netherland Institute. She has presented her research at the annual conferences of the Omohundro Institute, the North American Conference on British Studies, the Association of Caribbean Historians, the Association of American Geographers, and elsewhere.

Melissa is very committed to teaching and during the 2015-2016 academic year, she taught her own course, “A Botanical History of European Expansion, 1400-1850,” and served as a Lead Teaching Fellow. She is also been the rapporteur for the Columbia University Seminar on Early American History and Culture.

Before coming to Columbia, Melissa earned a B.A. and an M.A. at Miami University. Melissa enjoys traveling, being outdoors, adding to her wardrobe, playing board games, and finding high culture on the cheap in New York City.