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Kristen Block

Associate Professor


A historian of the Atlantic World, my research has focused geographically on the Caribbean–arguably the epicenter of colonial competition in the early modern Americas.  Religion and slavery were two cornerstones of early modern life and thus figure prominently in my teaching and writing about the colonial Americas, where Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans fought and collaborated with one another to shape social rules.

My first book, Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean: Religion, Colonial Competition, and the Politics of Profit, was published by the University of Georgia Press in 2012.  Ordinary Lives examines the entangled histories of Spain and England in the Caribbean during the long seventeenth century as both colonial powers searched for profit and attempted to assert their own version of religious dominance.  Focused on the stories of ordinary people, the book illustrated how the powerful rhetoric and rituals of Christianity helped many survive in a harsh world.  Since then, I have begun to conceptualize a second book project to explore how Caribbean residents defined disease, contagion, and how conflict and hybridity affected their attempts at healing.  Today’s rising interest in holistic medicine from both Western scientific establishment and a range of spiritual communities brings back what was once commonly accepted by all people–that a person’s mind, body, and  spirit are inextricably linked.  I intend to study those links without privileging science over religion, learned over “folk” therapies. As in my first book, I meditate on the limits of conventional historical methods to capture the emotions and voices of my subjects, many of them marginalized because of their sex, class, or enslaved status.  I remain committed to understanding the multilingual and inter-imperial entanglements that marked life in the early circum-Caribbean, as in much of the Atlantic World.

In my previous position at Florida Atlantic University, I taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Atlantic History (themes on slavery, religion, witchcraft, the Age of Revolutions, and microhistory), research methods, and pedagogy.  I look forward to offering similar courses at the University of Tennessee, and to working with graduate students with an interest in transnational history.


Ph.D. History (Early Modern Atlantic World, Women's and Gender History), Rutgers University, 2007

B.A. History, Creative Writing, Beloit College, 1998

Contact Information

  • 915 Volunteer Boulevard
    6th Floor, Dunford Hall
    Knoxville, TN 37996-4065

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