I specialize in Hellenistic history with particular focus on the legal and economic history of Ptolemaic Egypt. My research interests include governance, reforms of the state, legal institutions, formation of markets, and the impact of new economic institutions (coinage, banking) on traditional socio-economic patterns in the ancient world. I am still also deeply concerned with what I call analytical Papyrology, the interpretation of ancient sources, and bringing to bear the historical social sciences to ancient history. All of that sounds fairly recondite and specialized and perhaps irrelevant to modern day concerns. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stories from the ancient past are of course interesting in their own right. But the reconstruction of the lived human experiences in the pre-industrial world has direct relevance for understanding where we are at the moment and where we are going as a species. My work is dedicated to that reconstruction.
I have published four monographs: The Hauswaldt Papyri. A Family Archive from Edfu in the Ptolemaic Period (Demotische Studien, Vol. 12. Würzburg, 1997), Land and power in Ptolemaic Egypt. The structure of land tenure 332-30 BCE (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The last pharaohs. Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305 – 30 BC. (Princeton University Press, 2009), and The Open Sea. The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean world from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome (Princeton University Press, 2018). I have edited Writing History in time of War. Michael Rostovtzeff, Elias Bickerman and the 'Hellenization of Asia (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015), with John Collins, Revolt and Resistance in the Ancient Classical World and the Near East (Brill, 2016). I have also edited (with Ian Morris, Stanford University) a volume on economic history: The Ancient Economy: Evidence and Models. Stanford University Press, 2005, and Law and Legal Practice in Egypt from Alexander to the Arab Conquest (330 BC-640 AD). Co-edited with J.G. Keenan & Uri Yiftach (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Before coming to Yale, I taught for 12 years at Stanford University and two years at Princeton University. I am a Professor in both the History and the Classics Departments at Yale, affiliated with the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School, and a Professor in the Yale School of the Environment. I am a collaborative member of Yale’s Program in Economic History and the environmental history group. I received my B.A. from The Ohio State University, and my M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
My current research is situated at the intersection of Paleoclimatology, environmental history and the economic history of the pre-industrial world. I am particularly interested in ice core geochemistry, a very exciting and dynamic science that is a major tool in the reconstruction of past climate. The amount of ongoing work and the burgeoning literature integrating ice core data with historical analysis is literally exploding (pun intended). For a start on the techniques, read THIS on the great work by Joe McConnell and his former post doc at DRI/Reno Michael Sigl now in Bern. Their pioneering article that appeared in Nature in 2015 is HERE. For a nice piece explaining the connection between volcanic eruptions and climate forcing, reconciling model data with climate proxies, see Emile Julien-Geay (USC) and Kevin Anchukaitis' (Arizona) essay HERE.
I am part of a small but superb team that has been working on understanding the impacts of explosive volcanic eruptions on the Nile watershed (See the link to our NSF-funded research below). We have so far focused on the Nile River and Ptolemaic period in Egypt but we plan to extend our work through Late Antiquity and to examine the inter-regional impacts of climate change across the Mediterranean, Western Asia, and the Indian Ocean with particular focus on the Nile and Euphrates rivers.
I am currently at work on a major monograph on the examination of the interaction of humans and their environments and adaptation to climatic change on various scales from the Neolithic to the present. I discuss some of the issues with Dagomar Degroot and Emma Moesswilde from Georgetown on their Podcast:
Climate History Podcast interview (April 2020): Listen HERE
The website for our current NSF-funded project that is integrating Paleoclimate data with historical data from (primarily) the Ptolemaic period in Egypt (305-30 BCE) is HERE.
NEW PAPER on the OKMOK eruption (43 bce) is HERE: and a short blog about it can be found on our project website HERE.
A nice essay by Clive Oppenheimer (Cambridge) on the paper is HERE.
We recently (November 2020) published a response to a letter to the editor in PNAS HERE
Umnak Island, mid-Aleutian chain, Alaska, on a very rare clear day in the Aleutians. Okmok volcano is at the top of the image. [Image: NASA Earth Observatory, 20 October 2017, LANDSAT 8 - OLI].
Old Campus at Yale University, March 2019