Department of History

Jack Bouchard

Advisor: Marcus Rediker
Doctoral Thesis: Towards Terra Nova: The North Atlantic Fisheries and the Atlantic World, 1490-1600
Date of PhD: 2018
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Environmental History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

I spent six years at Pitt working with an amazing group of Atlantic and World History scholars, finishing my PhD in April of 2018. In the fall of 2020 I started a position as Assistant Professor in the history department of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. At Rutgers I teach environmental history, with an emphasis on the global and premodern perspectives. Between leaving Pitt and starting at Rutgers I had the good fortune to spend two years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where I was part of a multidisciplinary team of scholars working with the Mellon-funded Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Culture project. So, my post-PhD career has been something of a leap from Atlantic/World history into environmental/food histories, but it’s a leap I do not think would have been possible without the training and experiences I had at Pitt. 

My own work focuses on maritime environments, food and maritime labour in the 15th-16th century Atlantic basin. I am currently working on my first book, currently titled Terra Nova: Food, Water and Work in an Early Atlantic World. It is a history of the northwest Atlantic in the sixteenth century, exploring the Atlantic origins of the commercial cod fisheries and a permanent European presence in the region. I also research and write more broadly about islands and food in the early Atlantic, early Canada, and premodern global foodways. These are all topics I was tentatively interested in when I started my project at Pitt, but which have grown into subjects I am passionate about and committed to researching and teaching. 

I am fortunate enough to currently have a job which directly applies my PhD training, but even so I’ve noticed that a few things specific to the history program at Pitt have really shaped my post-PhD teaching and research. Coming out of six years at Pitt I took it for granted that we need to approach the past in a transnational/transregional perspective – something which is not universally held to be true, as I’ve learned to my chagrin, but which has really impacted how I approached my work at the Folger and Rutgers. The experience of completing my PhD within a strong Atlantic history cohort gave me a determination to teach and research the past from maritime perspectives, and taught me the value of forming close scholarly communities. Likewise, the program’s emphasis on history-from-below and labour history has very much shaped how I write about the early Atlantic, and how I teach premodern environmental histories. I am also realizing that having the opportunity to work with the World History Center during my time at Pitt was a turning point for me. My teaching has been pretty fundamentally shaped by what I learned working with world historians, and my research on food history has emphasized a global perspective because of their guidance. These are all things which are, I think, unique to the experience in our department, and which make me more than a little proud to be able to say that I got my degree from Pitt.