Jakob Burnham (he/him/his) is a historian of Early Modern Europe and the World, with a particular focus on France and its Empire in the Indian Ocean during the 17th and 18th centuries. His research questions the relationship between imperial goals and colonial social realities and attempts to integrate the history of the early modern French Indian Ocean colonies with the more developed historiographies of the French Atlantic and metropolitan France.
His first project, Producing Pondichéry: Notaries, Social Lives, and Urban Development in French India, 1699-1757, considers how new constructions of race, gender, and class by French agents-colonizers and South Asian resident emerged in the contexts of developing urban space. Considering the contexts of the French State's financial agendas, he explores how negotiations over the definitions and control of colonial space contributed to the unique socio-urban development of Pondichéry. Analyzing notarial records, correspondence, court records, and other archival documents in France, India, and the United Kingdom, his research studies Pondichéry's development into a global nexus for South Asian communities, French agent-colonizers, and other world travelers in India as a socially based process as much as an economically based one. In doing so, he proposes an alternate viewpoint to analyze French colonial entrenchment across the Indian Ocean from the more traditional focus on eighteenth-century trading companies or plantation societies.
Currently, he is also a 2023-2024 Writer-In-Residence for Nursing Clio. While Writer-in-residence, he will continue to explore how these same archives can uncover dynamic questions about the histories of race, gender, and medicine in the eighteenth-century Indian Ocean World.
Selected Publication Highlights:
"Pensioning Pondicherry's Enfants and Orphelins: Social Welfare and the French East India Company in eighteenth-century French India" in Fertility, Family, and Social Welfare between France and Empire: The Colonial Politics of Population, edited by Margaret Cook Andersen and Melissa K. Byrnes. London: Palgrave-Macmillan (forthcoming, October 2023)
"A Tale of Two Deaths: Chronic Illness, Race, and the Medicalization of Suicide" Nursing Clio (21 February 2023).
Degroot, Dagomar, Kevin Anchukaitis, Martin Bauch, Jakob Burnham, Fred Carnegy, Jianxin Cui, Kathryn de Luna, et al. "Towards a Rigorous Understanding of Societal Responses to Climate Change." Nature 591, no. 7851 (March 2021): 539-50.
Selection Grants and Awards:
2022 Research Fellowship, Medical Humanities Initiative, Georgetown University
2020 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, US Department of Education
2019 Marjorie M. and Lancelot L. Farrar Memorial Research Fellowship, Society for French Historical Studies