Vera S. Candiani

Associate Professor, History
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Ph.D., UC Berkeley


A native of Argentina, Candiani studied at the University of California at Berkeley with Tulio Halperin Donghi, Margaret Chowning, Jan de Vries and Carla Hesse. She works at the intersection where social, economic and environmental history meet with the history of technology. While her work focuses on Colonial Latin America, her work engages comparative and to delve into the role of human interactions with the material world of dirt, plants, animals and energy through work and everyday objects in broad historical processes.

In her view, history has the potential to better inform our decisions about the present and future, at the very least providing living experiments about the prospects for policies and projects of all sorts that few if any impact reports or predictions based on the study of current behaviors can match. But this potential is largely being wasted, putting the practice and teaching of history at risk of being seen as increasingly irrelevant to the urgent civilizational problems posed by environmental and social crises brewing all over the planet. In research and teaching I try to remedy this.

Her first book, Dreaming of Dry Land: Environmental Transformation in Colonial Mexico City, is about one of the largest and most complex environmental engineering projects in the early modern era, which aimed to desiccate the lakes that used to surround the City of Mexico. Candiani is currently working on a project tentatively entitled "Common histories: Peasants and urban plebeians in the colonization of the early modern Atlantic." This comparative project embracing Spanish, French and English settlement in the continental Americas analyzes the connection between two of the most impactful phenomena of Atlantic early modernity – colonization, and tensions over access to the basic means of direct subsistence: the commons.

Vera Candiani is an associate professor History and maintains affiliations with the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities, the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Program in Latin American Studies.