Robert Michael Morrissey

Personal profile

Personal profile

Bob Morrissey writes and teaches about early American frontier history and environmental history. His recent book is People of the Ecotone: Environment and Indigenous Power at the Center of Early America, an environmental and cultural history of the tallgrass prairie region of North America in pre-modern times. This book won the Hal K. Rothman Prize in Environmental History of the American West from the Western History Association. For information about the book, read about it on Bob's website and watch this mini-documentary video. You can also learn about it in this interview on the New Books Network.

In 2018-2020, Bob was Mellon Faculty Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, where he led an interdisciplinary team in programming, research, and curriculum development. Click here for their group study, The Flatland Project, including Bob's essay "The Drains out of Town." In 2016-17, Bob was Helen Corley Petit Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. From 2016-2021, he was a Conrad Humanities Scholar in LAS.

Bob also helped to create the Colonial American History Lecture Series at the Newberry Library in Chicago, which is now in its sixth year.

Bob is founding co-editor of the book series, Environmental Studies of the Great Lakes, a new interdisciplinary series from Michigan State University Press. He is also a member of Reclaiming Stories, a collaborative project to help revitalize knowledge and practices of hide painting and tattooing within Miami and Peoria Indigenous communities. This project is sponsored by the HWW initiative, and you can read about it here.

Bob teaches courses in early America, environmental history, and the American West. His course on Colonial American history now features a major project on one special object in the UIUC collections; you can learn about it in this web exhibit and in this mini-documentary. In Spring 2024, Bob will lead a Humanities Research Lab on Midwestern environmental history.

Are you a prospective graduate student? We are recruiting a fully-funded history PhD student to work on the "Indigenous Midwest."

Research Interests

U.S. Colonial
Atlantic World
Environmental History
Borderlands/ U.S. West
Native American History


MA, M.Phil, PhD, Yale University
BA Carleton College, Northfield MN

Honors & Awards

Conrad Humanities Scholar, 2016-2021
Helen Corley Petit Scholar, 2016-17
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2015-16
Illinois Center for Advanced Study Fellowship, 2015
George and Gladys Queen Excellence in Teaching Award, Department of History, University of Illinois, 2014-2015
Lester J. Cappon Award for Best Article in William and Mary Quarterly for "Kaskaskia Social Network"
IPRH (Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities) Prize for Best Faculty Research, 2012


History 570a: Problems in U.S. History to 1830
History 570b: Global Environmental History
History 170/171: U.S. History to 1877
History 202: American Environmental History
History 370: Colonial America
History 371: The American Revolution
History 200: Natives and Newcomers in Early America

Office Address

309 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone


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