Robert Harms is Designated as the Henry J. Heinz Professor

Robert Wayne Harms, the newly named Henry J. Heinz Professor of History and African Studies, is an award-winning scholar of African history, including the slave trade and the continent’s environmental and agrarian history.

His 2002 book “The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade” won four prestigious awards, including two from Yale: the Frederick Douglass Prize of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition and the Gustav Ranis International Book Prize of Yale’s Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. It was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (history category), the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Literary Prize awarded by the Boston Globe and PEN New England, and the Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize awarded by the French Colonial Historical Society.

Harms’ 1987 book “Games Against Nature: An Eco-Cultural History of the Nunu of Equatorial Africa” won the American Society for Environmental History’s George Perkins Marsh Prize in 1991 and was selected for publication in the History E-Book Project of the American Council of Learned Societies.

The historian is also the author of “River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade, 1500-1891” and is a co-editor of “Paths Toward the Past: African Historical Essays in Honor of Jan Vansina.”

A member of the Yale faculty since 1979, Harms has served as director of undergraduate studies in the history department, chair of the Council on African Studies, director of the Program on Agrarian Studies, director of the African Studies Program, director of graduate studies in history and director of the Southern African Research Program. He has held some of these posts more than once.

Harms earned his undergraduate degree at Tabor College in Kansas and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been a Mellon Fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center, a Fulbright Research Professor at the University of Conakry in Guinea and a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in Germany. In 2006, he delivered the Jensen Memorial Lectures at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.

Harms’ professional activities include serving on the editorial board of History Compass, an online journal; on the international board of directors for the Center for the Study of Local Knowledge in Bamako, Mali; and on the advisory committee of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, among others.

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