Elise Mitchell

Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow, History
114 Dickinson Hall

Elise A. Mitchell is a historian of the early modern Black Atlantic and currently a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the History Department at Princeton University. Broadly, her work examines the social and cultural histories of slavery, the body, medicine and healing, disease, race, and gender in the early modern Atlantic World.

She is currently working on a book about enslaved Africans who contended with smallpox epidemics, municipal health regulations, and compulsory medical treatments during and after their transatlantic journeys to the Caribbean region titled, Morbid Geographies: Enslavement, Embodiment, and Epidemics in the Early Modern Atlantic World. The book transcends and troubles imperial boundaries to examine the interconnected histories of enslaved African’s social lives, disease, and medicine in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British territories between roughly 1500 and 1800. Mitchell is also developing a digital history project based on her research database of over 500 smallpox outbreaks that affected enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and wider Atlantic World between 1500 and 1800. The digital history project, titled Smallpox and Slavery in the Early Modern Atlantic World: A Digital History, is supported by a micro-grant from the Caribbean Digital Scholarship Collective.

Mitchell’s publications include a chapter in the edited volume Medicine and Healing in the Age of Slavery and published and forthcoming articles in The William and Mary Quarterly and The Journal of the Early Republic. Her essays have appeared in The Atlantic: Ideas and Black Perspectives. She has also co-authored publications about the history of race and medicine. She is also a co-editor of the online publication Insurrect!: Radical Thinking in Early American Studies.

Mitchell completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and earned her Ph.D. at New York University. She has received fellowships from Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Huntington Library, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.


“Black and African American,” in “Critical Engagements: What’s in a Name?,” Journal of the Early Republic 43, no. 1 (Spring 2023): 85-100.
““They had no choice but to obey”: On Slavery, Medicine, Speculation, and the Archive” in “Dilemmas of Archival Objectivity,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 53, no. 1 (2023): 82–85.

“Morbid Crossings: Surviving Smallpox, Maritime Quarantine, and the Gendered Geography of the Early Eighteenth-Century Intra-Caribbean Slave Trade,” The William and Mary Quarterly 79, no. 2 (2022): 177-210.

“Unbelievable Suffering: Rethinking Feigned Illness in Slavery and the Slave Trade,” Medicine and Healing in the Age of Slavery eds. Sean Morey Smith and Christopher. D. E. Willoughby (LSU Press, 2021)

Area of Interest
African American
Colonialism & Post Colonialism
Cultural History
Digital History
Gender & Sexuality
Imperial History
Medicine & Health
Race & Ethnicity
Sensory History
Social History
15th & 16th Centuries
17th & 18th Centuries
Latin America and the Caribbean
Sub-Saharan Africa