Benjamin Schmidt (he/him)

Jon Bridgman Endowed Professor in History
Benjamin Schmidt

Contact Information

SMI 108
Office Hours
AUT 23: Please contact to set up a virtual appointment.


Ph.D., Harvard University
MA, Harvard University
BA, Columbia University


Benjamin Schmidt is a Professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle. His work sits at the disciplinary crossroads of cultural history, visual and material studies, and the history of science; and concerns itself chiefly with Europe’s engagement with the world in the so-called first age of globalism. He has published widely on early modern topics, including Innocence Abroad: The Dutch Imagination and the New World, which won the Renaissance Society of America’s Gordan Prize and the Holland Society’s Hendricks Prize; Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts (with Pamela Smith); The Discovery of Guiana by Sir Walter Ralegh; and Going Dutch: The Dutch Presence in America, 1609–2009 (with Annette Stott and Joyce Goodfriend). His most recent book, Inventing Exoticism: Geography, Globalism, and Europe’s Early Modern World, explores the development of European forms of “exoticism”—ways of looking at and imagining, representing and framing, the non-European world—in the early years of global encounter. A finalist for the Kenshur Prize awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Inventing Exoticism recently appeared in a Chinese translation.

Current Project:

  • "Mediating the World: Early Modern Things and the Making of Modernity"


Courses Taught

Winter 2023

Autumn 2022

Winter 2022

Autumn 2021

Winter 2021

Additional Courses

Courses Offered

  • "Exploration and Empire: The Art and Science of Global Power 1300-1800" (HSTRY 245)
  • "Early Modernity: Culture, Politics, Power, 1300-1700" (HSTEU 301)
  • "Spain and its Golden Age, 1469-1700" (HSTEU 361)
  • "Curious Things: Objects, Wonders, and the Global Renaissance" (HSTRY 498)
  • "Exoticism: Global Exchange 1400-1800" (HSTRY 388)
  • "Cities and Courts: Culture and Society in the Baroque World" (HSTRY 400)
  • "Traveling the Early Modern World" (HSTRY 498)
  • "The Global Renaissance: Topics in Early Modern European History" (HSTEU 505)

Graduate Study Areas

Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

Professor Schmidt offers a field covering the social, political, and especially cultural history of Europe from around the mid-fifteenth century through the mid-eighteenth century. Topics vary from year to year, and students tend to play a considerable part in shaping their own programs of study. Recent graduate seminars have examined courts and court culture; habits of collecting and the practice of early modern "science"; Europe's encounter with the Americas; the expansion of early modern geography and the culture of curiosity; the history of reading, literacy, and the book; visual culture in early modern Europe. Europe's engagement with the non-European world is also included in the field: early modern expansion, colonialism, and globalism.

Division: Comparative History (Comparative Colonialisms)

Students may work with Professor Schmidt to develop a field in Comparative Colonialisms that focuses on the early modern world.  This field might focus on the West--the history of the Atlantic World and the colonial (and imperial) enterprises that commenced from ca. 1492--or the to the East, in the latter case considering how European interventions in Asia fit into broader, early modern colonial and imperials trends.  This field would be done from a European perspective, to be sure, yet in a manner that explores how European colonial programs and golbal engagements fit into larger cultural and political developments of the period from ca. 1450-1750.