University of Rochester

Michael J. Jarvis

Position: Associate Professor of History; Director of Undergraduate Studies

Field: American History, Global History

Specialty: Early American social and economic history; Atlantic World networks; Bermuda and the Caribbean; Maritime labor and culture

Education: PhD, College of William and Mary, 1998


Contact Info

455 Rush Rhees Library
Dept. of History
Rochester, NY 14627-0070

phone: 585.275.4558
fax: 585.756.4425

Michael Jarvis

Fields of Interest:

My main research interests involve inter-colonial networks of migration, trade, and communication and technological and cultural cross-fertilization within the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic world. I use the island of Bermuda (England’s oldest colony) as a historical laboratory to study the earliest phases of Anglo-American colonization, African slavery, Puritanism, maritime communities, culture, and slave labor systems, the operation of intra-American coasting trade and smuggling, and the American Revolution considered within wider Atlantic and global contexts.

I address many of these subjects in my book In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press/OIEAHC, 2010), which won the American Historical Association’s James A. Rawley Book Prize in Atlantic History. I am currently completing At the Crossroads of the Atlantic: Bermuda and the Beginnings of English America, 1609-1684, as a prequel  to Eye of All Trade.

My research is broadly interdisciplinary. Trained as a social historian and historical archaeologist, I also incorporate material culture, architecture, and environmental history in my comparative Atlantic, maritime, and Caribbean studies.  I have more than fifteen years’ of archaeological fieldwork experience excavating colonial and Revolutionary sites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Bermuda, and Virginia, most notably working with Jamestown Rediscovery in 1995 to locate the original 1607 James Fort site. Besides serving as the History Department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies, I also work closely with Western New York museums and archives and have supervised more than forty public history undergraduate internships over the past twelve years. These internships underscore that, far from a future flipping burgers, a history degree opens up a wide range of challenging professional career paths.

Since 2010, I have married my historical and archaeological interests to launch the Smiths Island Archaeology Project, which will systematically find, excavate, and study all houses and activity sites on a 60-acre Bermudian island that was home to the colony’s first permanent inhabitants (1610). Since 2012, I have led an annual five-week field school that teaches undergraduate students research, remote sensing, and excavation methods, artifact identification and analysis, and site recording techniques.  Please visit my blog, Smiths Island Archaeology Project, for site reports, field school applications, and additional information on the 18 sites we’ve found and the three we’ve thus far excavated.

Students: Download an application to join the 2014 Smiths Island field school HERE

Over the next three years, I am also launching Virtual St. George’s, a Digital History project that combines empirical and quantitative New Social History methods with 2D and 3D GIS spatial analysis to create an interactive humanistic geospatial  laboratory. This new project gives new life to earlier research I did as a graduate student, compiling the property histories of more than 250 houses in St. George’s, Bermuda. My earlier effort produced my first book, Bermuda's Architectural Heritage: St. George's, and was instrumental in Bermuda’s successful bid to make St. George’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Virtual St. George’s will combine the historical precision of a community study across twelve generations (1612-1900) with 3D renderings of the townscape at various key years (1620, 1660, 1700, 1775, 1812, 1865) and video game-inspired character animation and interactivity with rigorously researched avatars. By stressing public history and digital history alongside traditional historical and interdisciplinary training, I hope to prepare majors and graduate students alike to become 21st-century historians.

Graduate Fields:

I offer the following fields for the PhD qualifying examination. For explanations of fields, see the "Graduate Overview" page in the Graduate Handbook.

Teaching Fields:
Early American History
United States History I

Research Fields:
Atlantic History, 1450-1850 (Transnational)
Material Culture and Archaeology (Transnational)

I will be accepting students for admission in Fall 2014.

Courses Offered:

  • HIS 100: Introduction to History: Pirates of the Caribbean
  • HIS 162: Early America, 1491-1800
  • HIS 280: Archaeology of Early America
  • HIS 306W/406: Maritime Atlantic World
  • HIS 375W/475: Benjamin Franklin's America
  • HIS 362W/462: Topics in Earliest America

Representative Publications: