Robert Michael Morrissey

 Robert Morrissey

Contact Information

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


Bob Morrissey specializes in the history of early America and the Atlantic world, American frontier and borderlands history, ethnohistory, and environmental history.  His first book tells the story of French colonists and Native peoples of the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The book is entitled, "Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in the Colonial Illinois Country, and it appears in the Early American Studies Series from University of Pennsylvania Press.  His next project is entitled "The Illinois and the Edge Effect: People, Environment, and Power in the Tallgrass Prairie Borderlands."  It is a study of the relationship between people and non-human nature in one of North America's most distinctive ecological and social frontiers from 1200 to 1850.  It is supported by fellowships by the Illinois Center for Advanced Study and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. An article from this project entitled "Climate, Ecology, and History in North America’sTallgrass Prairie Borderlands" is forthcoming in the journal Past & Present.

In 2018-2020, Bob will be the Mellon Faculty Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, where he will lead an interdisciplinary team in programming, research, and curriculum development. In 2016-17, Bob was Helen Corley Petit Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. From 2016-2021, he is a Conrad Humanities Scholar in LAS.

Outside of his work as a professor, Bob is chapter advisor for the Evans Scholar House at Illinois. He also helps to organize the Society of Colonial Wars' Colonial America Lecture Series at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Research Interests

  • U.S. Colonial
  • Atlantic World
  • Environmental History
  • Native American History


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

Distinctions / 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

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

“The Country is greatly injured:” Human-Animal Relationships, Ecology, and the Fate of Empire in the 18th Century Mississippi Valley Borderlands Environment and History (Accepted) 2014.
The Power of the Ecotone: Bison, Slaves, and the Rise and Fall of the Grand Village of the Kaskaskia Journal of American History (102) 3 2015, p. 667-692. Full Text.
All Princes and Rulers are Alike to Us: The Education of George Morgan in the West Ohio Valley History 15 1 2015, p. 41-64.
Archives of Connection: "Whole Network" Analysis and Social History Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 48 2 2015, p. 67-79.
Bison Algonquians: Cycles of Violence and Exploitation in the Mississippi Valley Borderlands Early American Studies 13 2 2015, p. 309-340.
Kaskaskia Social Network: Kinship and Assimilation in a French-Illinois Borderland William and Mary Quarterly 70 1 2013, p. 103-146.
"I Speak It Well": Language, Cultural Understanding, and the End of a Missionary Middle Ground in Illinois Country, 1673-1712 Early American Studies 9 3 2011, p. 617-648.

Book Contributions

Photo of publication
The Terms of Encounter: Language and Contested Visions of French Colonization in the Illinois Country, 1673-1702 French and Indians in the Heart of North America, 1630-1815 edited by Guillaume Teasdale, edited by Robert Englebert. The Terms of Encounter: Language and Contested Visions of French Colonization in the Illinois Country, 1673-1702 Edited by Guillaume Teasdale, Edited by Robert Englebert, Michigan State University Press 2013, p. 43-75.
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Ambitions: French Colonization in the Mississippi Valley Converging Worlds: Communities and Cultures in Colonial America compiled by Louise Breen. Ambitions: French Colonization in the Mississippi Valley Compiled by Louise Breen, Routledge 2011, p. 524-552.
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Clarence W. Alvord, the Illinois Historical Survey, and the Invention of Local History University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation Clarence W. Alvord, the Illinois Historical Survey, and the Invention of Local History Urbana University of Illinois Press 2017.


Photo of publication
Morrissey, Robert Michael Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press 2015.