Sean Morey Smith

Historian of Slavery, Race, and Medicine

About Me

I earned my PhD in History at Rice University. My research examines how medical ideas of health and climate were used to alternatively support and attack racialized slavery in the Anglophone Atlantic. This research reveals that racial science and medicine were not simply “pseudoscientific” expressions of proslavery ideology. Rather, racial ideas pervaded eighteenth- and nineteenth-century science and medicine and were even used to attack slavery. I am currently in the process of completing a book manuscript, entitled “The Climate of Race in Abolition, c. 1730-1860,” detailing these findings.

I have previously published research in journals such as Slavery & Abolition, Medical History, and Urban History as well as in the edited collection Atlantic Environments and the American South. Christopher D.E. Willoughby and I co-edited Medicine and Healing in the Age of Slavery.

I also conduct historical research using Digital Humanities (DH) techniques and tools. I previously worked on the imagineRio digital atlas and have taught “Historical Mapping and GIS.” I have additionally prototyped a process for digitizing historical American Medical Directories and explored abolitionist texts using statistical text analysis. See the “Digital Projects” menu for more projects and information.

I recently worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate for the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and Slavery Project, examining the relationship between slavery and YSM and its predecessor, the Medical Institution of Yale College. As part of that research, I used GIS (Geographic Information System) to reconstruct nineteenth-century New Haven’s racial demography and its relationship to medical student housing.

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