James La Fleur
Associate Professor, General Faculty
Office Hours: scheduled with Collab's Sign-Up tool (most weeks Tuesdays and Thursdays, 15:30 – 17:15)
Field & Specialties
Early Africa, Afro-Atlantic Diaspora, and Environmental History; Food Studies; Health and Development
La Fleur earned a PhD in History from the University of Virginia and previously held appointments at the Research School CNWS (a multi-university Dutch consortium for Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies), in the University of Leiden’s Department of African Languages and Cultures, with the University of Virginia’s Corcoran Department of History (2004-06), and then at the College of William & Mary. He has taught History courses at UVa every summer since 2005, led core survey courses in African-American and African Studies for the Woodson Institute in 2013-15, and will be teaching both History and Global Studies in 2018-19.
His first book was Pieter van den Broecke's Journal of Voyages to Cape Verde, Guinea and Angola, 1605-1612 (London: The Hakluyt Society, 2000). The book concerns the seventeenth-century Dutch production of knowledge of historical Africa, based on interpretation – through translation, introduction, and annotation – of the sole surviving handwritten draft for a published description in the remarkable corpus of Dutch texts concerning Africa. It is a widely cited source for African trade and political culture from Mauritania to Angola, as well as the diaspora of Portuguese Jews and “New Christians” around the Atlantic.
His second book is Fusion Foodways of Africa’s Gold Coast in the Atlantic Era (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012). This project explores the cultural history of farming and food in the Atlantic era, focusing on the experiences of people of the Gold Coast of West Africa (roughly equivalent to the modern nation of Ghana) during the so-called “Columbian exchange” of people, plants, animals, diseases, and ideas. The book was awarded the Mary W. Klinger Prize for best book in Economic Botany.
He is now developing a collaborative, international effort for an electronic archive based on the most important seventeenth-century synthetic account of Africa, Olfert Dapper’s “Description of Africa” (Naukeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaensche gewesten, 1668 [2nd ed. 1676]). This massive folio volume contains more than 850 pages of text and presents 30 maps and large-scale drawings. The construction of a richly interconnected digital repository containing Dapper’s description of Africa, scholarship on Dapper’s work, and related texts and objects will assist conservation, improve public access, and stimulate scholarly collaborations across continents and disciplines.
He is also now busy completing a review of recent scholarship on medicine, healing, and race in the Caribbean.
Spring 2017 - HIAF 3112: "African Environmental History"
Summer 2017 (1) - GSGS 3112: "Ecology and Globalization in the Era of European Expansion"
Summer 2017 (3) - HIAF 2001: "Africa to 1800 CE"
Fall 2017 - HIAF 1501: "Africa and Virginia, 1619 - now"
January 2018 - GSGS 2211: "Environment, Health, and Development in Africa"
Spring 2018 - HIAF 3112: "African Environmental History"
Summer 2018 (1) - GSGS 2211: "Environment, Health, and Development in Africa"
Summer 2018 (3) - HIAF 2001: "Africa to 1800 CE"
Fall 2018 - HIAF 1510: "Africa and Virginia, 1619 - now"
Fall 2018 - HIAF 3051: "West African History"