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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of History

Faculty Directory

Andrew Berns

Assistant Professor of History

Office: 229 Gambrell Hall
Degrees: B.A. Reed College
MPhil Cambridge University
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania
Phone: (803) 777-4216
Research Interests: Jewish history, Renaissance Italy, history of medicine, environmental history
Curriculum vitae: Download PDF


I specialize in the history of the Jews in pre-modern Europe, with a particular focus on the medieval and early modern Mediterranean. My first book, The Bible and Natural Philosophy in Renaissance Italy, was published by Cambridge University Press in November 2014.  It shows how changes in European medicine prompted new readings of the Bible and other classical texts.

Current Activities 

My next major project builds on my interest in the relationship between Jews, their texts, and the natural world.  It explores an important facet of the medieval Jewish experience: agriculture.  I focus on several late medieval Mediterranean contexts where Jews were active as farmers: the Kingdom of Aragon; its overseas possessions, chiefly Sicily; and Venetian Crete.  My study of this lost world of Jewish economic activity complicates an old scholarly assumption about Jews as proto-capitalists and agents of the commercial revolution, and corrects an entrenched narrative about Jewish deracination from the land in the Middle Ages and modern period.