Jennifer Anderson

Associate Professor (Ph.D., New York University, 2007)
Curriculum Vitae
SBS S-319
Research Interests
My book is entitled, Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America (Harvard University Press, 2012). It examines the history of mahogany consumption in North America in the 18th and early 19th centuries and the resulting human and environmental impacts in the West Indies and Central America where it was harvested using enslaved African labor. The book is based on my dissertation which won the Society of American Historians' Nevins Prize for Best-Written Dissertation. I have also done extensive research and consulting on the history and interpretation of slavery in the North. Drawing on this expertise, I served as historical advisor for the Emmy-nominated documentary about the New England slave trade, entitled “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North.”

My new research focuses on reinterpreting the complex human and environmental history of Long Island within the broader Atlantic context. Many people are unaware of this region's fascinating past as a venue where native peoples--who had called the island home for thousands of years--encountered European settlers and enslaved Africans during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Through generations of conflict and adaptation, all involved saw their worlds transformed as Long Island became part of the Atlantic economic complex, including supplying foodstuffs (produced with the labor of Native peoples and enslaved Africans) to West Indian sugar plantations . To explore these issues, I curated an exhibition at New York University entitled, "Sylvester Manor: Land, Food, and Power on a New York Plantation." One of the only 17th -century plantation sites still extant in New York, Sylvester Educational Farm  is now open to the public. (For info, see

Currently, I am researching efforts to promote scientific agriculture and, with the gradual demise of slavery, to redevelop traditional farm labor regimes on Long Island following the American Revolution. My first article on this subject appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Early American Studies as part of a special issue on environmental history in early America.

In 2013, Dr. Christopher Matthews and I co-edited a special online edition of Long Island History Journal (2013, vol. 23-2) highlighting recent and on-going archaeological and community history projects that are illuminating our understanding of the integral place of African Americans and Native Americans in our region's history, as well as their historical connections with each other. With contributions from archaeologists, historians, community activists, and local residents, this issue represents a remarkable gathering of scholarship and interpretive efforts which we hope will raise awareness of this significant history as well as the challenges that many of these vibrant communities face as they seek to preserve, celebrate, and share their heritage. To access the Journal, please see:

As an Atlantic historian, I am interested in the complex relationships (social, economic, and political) that developed among the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean in the early modern period. Using a comparative perspective, I explore the history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, issues of labor, race, and gender, and the rise of nationalism and revolutionary movements. My other interests include: environmental history, Early American social and cultural history, material culture, archaeology, natural history and knowledge production, museum studies, and public history.

Before joining the History faculty at Stony Brook University, I worked as a museum curator, exhibition developer, and historical consultant at numerous historic sites and museums throughout greater New York. I still serve as an advisor or consultant to many historical and cultural organizations. In addition, I offer educational workshops and public talks on a range of topics at schools, public libraries, and community groups.

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Scholarly Works
"A Laudable Spirit of Enterprise": Renegotiating Land, Natural Resources, and Power on Post-Revolutionary Long Island," Early American Studies 13: 2 (Spring 2015). Abstract available here:

Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America (Harvard University Press, 2012)

“The Card Family and the Mahogany Trade: From New England to the Bay of Honduras,” New England and the Caribbean, ed. Peter Benes (Dublin Seminar for New England Folk Life, 2012), pp. 15-32.

“New England Merchants and the Circum-Caribbean Slave Trade,” in Paths of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Interactions, Identities, and Images, ed. Ana Lucia Araujo (Cambria Press, 2011), 21-48.

“Better Judges of the Situation: Environmental Realities & Problems of Imperial Authority in the Bay of Honduras,” Itinerario, special issue: “Geographies of Empire,” 30: 3 (2006), pp. 55-75.

“Nature's Currency: The Atlantic Mahogany Trade and the Commodification of Nature in the Eighteenth Century,” Early American Studies, 2:1 (Spring 2004), pp. 47-80. *Received 2004 prize for “Outstanding Journal Article in Early American Economic History,” Program in Early American Society and Economics.