Laura J. Mitchell

I teach African History and World History at the University of California, Irvine. My research explores the social history of colonial southern Africa, particularly within the broader context of Dutch East India Company exchange networks.

ljm paris 2008

Buttes aux Cailles, Paris

My first book, Belongings: Property, Family, and Identity in Colonial South Africa (Columbia UP, 2009) explores the creation of communities rooted in questions of land tenure, labor control, family formation, and natural resource allocation. This research was supported by fellowships from Fulbright, the ACLS, the NEH, and an AHA Gutenberg-e Prize. My work has appeared in the Journal of African History, Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, and the South Africa Historical Journal. I am currently working on a book that examines the production of art as a site of contested knowledge about the natural world, funded by a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship.

In addition to trying to figure out what may have happened at the southern tip of Africa in the eighteenth century, I am also concerned with underlying issues of comprehension and translation in historical scholarship, particularly:

  1. how to make sense of early modern societies in a digital age;
  2. how to make effective use of emerging research on pedagogy, communication, and museum studies in order to make cutting edge historical scholarship available, intelligible, and relevant to a wide audience of non-specialist scholars, students across the K-16 spectrum, and the general public.

Toward that end, I regularly work with in-service and pre-service high school teachers through the UCI History Project and other teaching collaborations. I have read AP World History exams since 2005 and currently serve on the College Board Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee. I co-directed the Past Tense history writing workshop at the Huntington Library from 2006-08 and in 2009-10.

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