S. Max Edelson
Co-Director, UVA Early American Seminar
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:30-4:00pm and by appointment
Field & Specialties
Colonial British America
History of Cartography
Slavery and Plantation Societies
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University (1999)
M.A., Johns Hopkins University (1997)
M.Litt., University of Oxford (1994)
B.A., Cornell University (1992)
Deep Springs College, Class of 1988
S. Max Edelson studies the history of British America and the Atlantic world. His research examines space, place, and culture in colonial North America and the Caribbean. His first book, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Harvard, 2006) examines the relationship between planters and environment in South Carolina as the key to understanding this repressive, prosperous society and its distinctive economic culture. It shows that although plantations often represent stasis in myths of the Old South, they were in fact dynamic instruments of empire. Plantation Enterprise was awarded the George C. Rogers Prize by the South Carolina Historical Society and the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Award by the Agricultural History Society. Harvard University Press published a paperback edition of the book in 2011.
His second book, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence (Harvard, 2017), describes how Britain used maps and geographic knowledge to reform its American empire in the eighteenth century. The book follows the surveyors who fanned out across frontier territories--from the frigid coasts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to tropical islands in the southeastern Caribbean--to make distant spaces legible from London. The schemes of colonial development and control that these maps envsioned, Edelson argues, helped provoke the reisstance that led to the American Revolution. The New Map of Empire features a free companion website with a dynamic digital archive of more than 257 maps and charts discussed in the book. It was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize in 2017 and received the John Lyman Book Award for U.S. Maritime History by the North American Society for Oceanic History.
Edelson and Research Professor Bill Ferster were awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Implementation Grant in 2012 to develop MapScholar at UVa's SHANTI (Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives). MapScholar is a dynamic visualization tool for historic map collections. It offers a free, open-source portal that gives scholars the ability to bring together high-resolution map images from a variety of sources, analyze them in rich geospatial contexts, and use them to illustrate new interpretations in the history of cartography. Edelson received an American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship in 2010 to begin this digital humanities research.
Edelson and Professor Christa Dierksheide direct the UVa Early American Seminar, an ongoing research seminar jointly sponsored by the Corcoran Department of History, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, and the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. The intellectual center of our dynamic graduate program in colonial, Revolutionary, and early national history, the EAS is a community of scholars that includes PhD students, faculty, and visiting researchers who meet regularly to share and critique works in progress.
Professor of History, University of Virginia (2018-)
Associate Professor of History, University of Virginia (2009-2018)
Associate Professor of History, University of Illinois (2007-2009)
Assistant Professor of History, University of Illinois (2001-2007)
Assistant Professor of History, College of Charleston (1998-2001)
Lee B. Wilson (2014), “Masters of Law: English Legal Culture and the Law of Slavery in Colonial South Carolina and the British Atlantic World, 1669-1783,” Assistant Professor of History, Clemson University
Mary S. Draper (2016), “The Tropical Metropolis: Cities and Society in the Early Modern British Caribbean," Assistant Professor of History, Midwestern State University
Hannah K. Tucker (2021), "Masters of the Market: Ship Captaincy in the British Atlantic, 1680-1774"
Nicole L. Schroeder (2021), "Incurable Defects: Medicine, Welfare, and Competing Conceptions of Disability in Philadelphia, 1730-1840"
Alexander Humes (2021), "Fortified Arguments: Fortifications and Competing Spatial Views of Colonial North America," Major, United States Army
Emily Sackett (ABD), Women and the Founding of Plantation Societies in English America
Donovan Fifield (co-advised with Alan Taylor) (ABD), Wartime Financing and Political Culture in Eighteenth-Century British North America
Alice King (co-advised with Alan Taylor) (ABD), European-Native American Relations in the Colonial Northeast
Jennifer Levin (ABD), Material Culture and Empire along the Gulf Coast
Noah Beissel (co-advised with Christa Dierksheide) (ABD), The Barbadian Diaspora in the Early Modern Atlantic World
Bethany McGlyn (co-advised with Christa Dierksheide), Enslaved Artisans in Colonial British America
Ethan Gonzales (co-advised with Christa Dierksheide), Information Politics and Political Culture in the Early Republic
Public Lecture, "Mapping Carolina: Cartography and the Quest for Empire in the Colonial Southeast," Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series, April 17, 2014, Charleston, South Carolina
Public Presentation, "The Mapping of America: An Interview with Dr. Seymour I. Schwartz," Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, April 3, 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia
Public Lecture, "The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence," Mapping the Georgian World: Global Power and Maps in the Reign of George III, October 9, 2018, King's College London
Video, S. Max Edelson and Ricardo Padrón on teaching a College of Arts and Sciences Forum on "Space, Knowledge, and Power"
Podcast Interview, Ben Franklin's World: A Podcast about Early American History, "Max Edelson, The New Map of the British Empire," episode 186, 2018.
Podcast Interview, Time to Eat the Dogs: A Podcast about Science, History, and Exploration, "Episode 54: The New Map of Empire," October 15, 2018.
Podcast Interview, Professor Buzzkill: History Myths Busted, The New Map of Empire, January 21, 2019.
Podcast Interview, New Books Network, The New Map of Empire, May 16, 2019.
(Recent and Selected)
[Review Essay], “Landscape and Material Culture in British Plantation America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 75 (October 2018): 722-730.
The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Harvard University Press, 2017)
“Visualizing the Southern Frontier: Cartography and Colonization in Eighteenth-Century Georgia,” in Paul S. Sutter, ed., Coastal Nature, Coastal Culture: Environmental Histories of the Georgia Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2018)
“The Territorial Pattern of Settler Populations in North America, 1625-1790,” a MapScholar Digital Atlas, http://mapscholar.org/population, 2015.
Featured Review of A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, by Richard S. Dunn, American Historical Review 120 (2015): 1431-1434.
James P. Ambuske, Ryan Bibler, and S. Max Edelson, “Visualizing Early America: Three Maps that Reveal the New World,” A MapScholar Digital Atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/3maps, 2014.
“Defining Carolina: Cartography and Colonization in the North American Southeast, 1657-1733,” in Michelle LeMaster and Bradford W. Wood, eds., Creating and Contesting Carolina: Proprietary Era Histories (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2013), 27-48.
S. Max Edelson and Bill Ferster, “MapScholar: A Web Tool for Publishing Interactive Cartographic Collections,” Journal of Map & Geography Libraries: Advances in Geospatial Information, Collections & Archives 9:4 (2013), 1-2, 81-107.
“Beyond ‘Black Rice’: Reconstructing Material and Cultural Contexts for Early Plantation Agriculture,” American Historical Review, 115:1 (2010): 125-135.
Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Harvard University Press, 2006)
Internet and Popular Press Publications
Andrew Meade McGee and S. Max Edelson, “Mapping L.A.: The Cartographic Art of Eric Brightwell,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/mappingla, 2017
“Spaces of Violence: Charlottesville, August 11-12, 2017,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/charlottesville, 2017
“Key Place in Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/poppies, 2017
“The New Map of Empire,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/empire, 2017
“Maps in World History,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/maps-in-world-history, 2017
“The Territorial Pattern of Settler Populations in North America, 1620-1790,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/population, 2016
With James P. Ambuske and Ryan Bibler, “Visualizing Early America: Three Maps that Reveal the New World,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://www.mapscholar.org/3maps, rev. 2015
“Defining Carolina: Cartography and Colonization in the North American Southeast, 1657-1733,” A MapScholar digital atlas, http://mapscholar.org/carolina, rev. 2015
Awards & Honors
(Recent and Selected)
John Lyman Book Award for U.S. Maritime History, North American Society for Oceanic History, for The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence
Finalist, 2018 George Washington Book Prize, C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience/Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History/George Washington’s Mount Vernon, for The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence
Learning Technology Incubator (LTI) grant, “Developing Effective Geo-Spatial Digital Pedagogy,” Arts and Sciences Learning Design and Technology, University of Virginia, 2017
Mellon Indigenous Arts Fellowship, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Provost’s Office, University of Virginia, 2017
Project Director, National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Implementation Grant (MapScholar), 2012-2016
ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 2010
J. B. Harley Research Fellowship in the History of Cartography, 2009
Kislak Fellowship in American Studies, Library of Congress, Washington, DC , 2007-2008
(Recent and Selected)
Forum: Introduction to Space, Knowledge, and Power
Pavilion Seminar: Digital Practicum in Map History
Maps in World History
Colonial Period in American History
Colloquium in the History of Colonial British America
Economic Culture in Early America
The Colonial Caribbean
Colloquium in Atlantic History
Tutorial in Historical Digital Visualization
Master’s Essay Writing
Problems in U.S. History to 1830: Material Culture
Problems in U.S. History to 1830: Slavery and Modernity
Problems in U.S. History to 1830: Atlantic World
Problems in Comparative History: Environmental History
Spaces of Empire: Geographies of Colonization in the Atlantic World