Tim Newfield is a historical epidemiologist and environmental historian. After defending his doctoral thesis in History and Classical Studies at McGill University in 2011, he held postdoctoral fellowships at the universities of Michigan (History), Stirling (Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy) and Princeton (History & High Meadows Environmental Institute). He joined Georgetown as an Assistant Professor in History and Biology in Spring 2017.
He teaches interdisciplinary histories of infectious disease, global health, premodern environmental change, and the Middle Ages. His recent work has focused on the Justinianic Plague, on human-bovine plagues and the measles-rinderpest divergence, on the prevalence of Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium malariae in early post-classical Europe, on short-term/rapid climate change and food shortage in the Frankish period, on the murky origins of the Variola virus, and on an intercontinental bovine panzootic in late antiquity, which seems not to have occurred. He completed a synthesis of the historical and palaeoclimatic scholarship (up-to 2016) on the 535-550 ‘global’ climatic downturn for the Palgrave Handbook of Climate History not too long ago and a collaborative paper on the relationship between late antique climate change and pandemic disease more recently.
His work has appeared in Agricultural History Review (2009), Annales H.S.S. (2022), Argos (2012), Biology Letters (2023), Climatic Change (2018, 2020), Climate of the Past (2022), Early Medieval Europe (2017), Environmental Archaeology (2023), Euro-Mediterranean Journal for Environmental Integration (2020), Geology (2017), History Compass (2018x3), Journal of Interdisciplinary History (2015, 2017), Journal of Roman Archaeology (2017, 2022), Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research (2020), Medizinhistorisches Journal (2020x2), Nature (2021), Nature Ecology and Evolution (2022x2), Post-Classical Archaeologies (2015), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018, 2019), Royal Society Open Science (2017), Social Science and Medicine (2022), Studies in Late Antiquity (2022), and in edited volumes (2012, 2013x2, 2018x2, 2023x2).
Forthcoming work reappraises the alleged evidence (written, physical) for smallpox in late antiquity. At present, Tim is writing a short book for OUP on the history and science of antiquity’s pandemics, a monograph on subsistence crises, epidemics and epizootics in Carolingian Europe, co-editing a nine-paper edited volume for Brepols on medieval food shortage and famine, and co-leading a handbook for Brill on medieval environmental history. He also co-leads the Climate Change and History Research Initiative at Princeton University, which has hosted thematically focused colloquia near annually since 2013 and intensive trainings (near annually but since 2015) in the natural sciences (palynology, paleoclimatology, paleogenetics) for junior scholars in the environmental humanities.
Most of Tim’s future non-book work is collaborative and multidisciplinary. One project looks at how the Medieval Climatic Anomaly and the rise of the Mongol Empire altered the pathogenic load of European and West Asian livestock. Another considers the influence of falling summer temperatures in the Late Antique Little Ice Age on the occurrence of Y. pestis and malaria in western Eurasia. Another reconsiders current understandings of the second-century Antonine Plague in light of historical and paleoclimatic data and with insights from evolutionary biology. Tim is delighted to work with graduate students interested in interdisciplinary histories of infectious disease and/or premodern environmental change.
Supervising and Supervised (as lead supervisor): Bryna Cameron-Steinke (early medieval landscape and disease history), Dylan Proctor (twentieth-century interdisciplinary disease history, defended March 2022, CDC postdoctoral fellow), Rachel Singer (early medieval environmental and epidemiological history).