La Fleur

James La Fleur

Assistant Professor, General Faculty

(434) 924-7146
Nau 336
Office Hours: TBD for Fall '20

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 led core survey courses in African-American and African Studies for the Woodson Institute in 2013-15, and since then has been teaching courses in both History and Global Studies.

Current Research

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.

His review article of recent scholarship on medicine, healing, and race in the Atlantic world was published by the New West India Guide, the most venerable journal on the Caribbean.

Longer-term research projects include 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. 


Courses Taught

Fall 2020 - HIAF 1501: "Africa and Virginia, 1619 - now"

Fall 2020 - HIAF 3051: "History of West Africa"

Summer 2020 (3) - HIAF 2001: "Africa to 1800 CE"

Spring 2020 - HIAF 3112: "African Environmental History"

January 2020 - GSGS 2211: "Environment, Health, and Development in Africa"

Fall 2019 - HIAF 3051: "West African History"

Fall 2019 - HIST 4511: "Africa and Virginia, 1619-2019"

Summer 2019 (3) - HIAF 3051: "West African History"

Summer 2019 (1) - GSGS 2211: "Environment, Health, and Development in Africa"

Spring 2019 - HIAF 1501-002: "Runaways, Rebels, and Revolutionaries of the Afro-Atlantic World"

Spring 2019 - HIAF 3112: "African Environmental History"

Fall 2018 - HIAF 1501: "Africa and Virginia, 1619 - now"

Fall 2018 - HIAF 3051: "West African History"

Summer 2018 (3) - HIAF 2001: "Africa to 1800 CE"

Summer 2018 (1) - GSGS 2211: "Environment, Health, and Development in Africa"

Spring 2018 - HIAF 3112: "African Environmental History"

January 2018 - GSGS 2211: "Environment, Health, and Development in Africa"

Fall 2017 - HIAF 1501: "Africa and Virginia, 1619 - now"

Summer 2017 (3) - HIAF 2001: "Africa to 1800 CE"

Summer 2017 (1) - GDS 3112: "Ecology and Globalization in the Era of European Expansion"

Spring 2017 - HIAF 3112: "African Environmental History"


Other courses previously offered include:

“Introduction to African-American and African Studies” (survey)

“African History since 1800 CE” (survey)

“Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”

“World History of Food” (variously as majors' seminar, as first-year writing seminar)

“Landscape and Memory in Africa” (mixed undergraduate and graduate seminar )

“Africans in the Atlantic World” (variously as mixed undergraduate and graduate seminar, as graduate seminar)

“American Slave Trades, 400 CE - 1940" (graduate seminar)