Assistant Professor of History, Cornell University
Casey Schmitt is a historian of early America and the Caribbean, with particular interests in human trafficking, colonization, and illicit economies over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In her research and teaching, she is interested in tracing individuals who crossed imperial boundaries—by choice and by coercion—in order to understand how processes like colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and trade functioned in the interstices of early modern empires. She is currently at work on her book manuscript, tentatively titled The Predatory Sea: Human Trafficking, Colonization, and Trade in the Greater Caribbean, 1530-1690, which analyzes the ubiquity of human trafficking and captivity in the greater Caribbean and North America from the 1530s until the 1690s and what that meant for colonization, trade, and warfare in the region. Throughout the period, demand for bound labor in Spanish, English, and French colonies exceeded supply, creating incentives for maritime raids on Indigenous communities, transatlantic slaving vessels, coastal plantations, and fisheries. Tracing the itineraries of both captives and captive-takers reveals an alternative regional geography and political economy in which subjects of different empires, Indigenous populations, and people of African descent created complex webs of vulnerability, dependence, and interaction that did not adhere to imperial demarcations on maps or the imaginations of metropolitan planners in Europe.