Karl Jacoby has devoted his career to understanding the ways in which the making of the United States intertwined with the unmaking of a variety of other societies—from Native American nations to the communities of northern Mexico—and the ecologies upon which they rested. His scholarship is distinguished by its close attention to questions of narrative and storytelling, in-depth micro-historical approach, and border-crossing nature. Professor Jacoby’s published work straddles multiple boundaries—not only the geographic divisions between East and West, and Mexico and the United States, but also the methodological divides between labor history and environmental history, genocide studies and Native American history, and borderlands history and African-American history.

Professor Jacoby received his A.B. in 1987 from Brown University and his Ph.D. in American history in 1997 from Yale University. After a year as a visiting assistant professor at Oberlin College, he returned to Brown as an assistant professor of history in 1999 and was named full professor in 2009. In the fall of 2012, he moved to Columbia University, where he currently serves as a professor in the Department of History and in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. He is the author of two books, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation(University of California Press, 2003) and Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History (Penguin Press, 2008), as well as numerous essays and reviews.

Read a profile of Karl Jacoby from the Brown Alumni Monthly.

Karl Jacoby

Recent Publications

The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire


Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves and the Hidden History of American Conservation


Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History

Awards & Distinctions


    • Ray Allen Billington Prize, Organization of American Historians
    • Phillis Wheatley Book Prize, Harlem Book Fair
    • Visiting Scholar, Russell Sage Foundation
    • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
    • Albert J. Beveridge Award in American History, American Historical Association
    • Special Recognition, Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
    • Erminie Wheeler-Voeglin Award, the American Society for Ethnohistory
    • Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association
    • Lois Rudnick Book Prize, New England American Studies Association
    • George Perkins Marsh Award, American Society for Environmental History
    • Littleton-Griswold Award in American law and society, American Historical Association
    • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship
    • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Huntington Library

CSER continues to be Columbia's main interdisciplinary space for the study of ethnicity and race and their implications for thinking about culture, power, hierarchy, social identities, and political communities. The Center also offers a wide range of public programming, including Artist at the Center, Indigenous Forum, and Latino Public Speaker Series and the Transnational Asian/American Speaker Series. CSER's most recent spaces include the Media and Idea Lab and Gallery at the Center, a space dedicated to curating artistic and thematic exhibits around the Center’s key areas of interest.

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Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race

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