Jordan B. Smith

Jordan B. Smith, PhD

  • Associate Professor of History
Media Expertise:
  • Arts & Culture

Affiliated Programs

Education

  • PhD, Early American and Atlantic History (2018)
    Georgetown University (DC)
  • MA, History (2013)
    Georgetown University (DC)
  • BA, Atlantic History (2010)
    Carleton College (MN)

About Me

I teach a variety of courses at Widener that situate the history of early America in global and Atlantic contexts. We cannot begin to understand the Boston Tea party without understanding the global routes that brought tea and sugar to North America; the history of slavery in the United States without considering global dimensions of the trade in humans; or westward expansion and Indian removal without tracking centuries of interactions between Native peoples and European colonizers. Tracking the "vastness" of early American history also illuminates the experiences of people sometimes forgotten in traditional narratives.

I also have expertise and interest in public history. In my “History and Memory in Chester” class, students learn about the best practices of public history by collaborating on a local history project in our community. I serve as the Public History Liaison for the College of Arts and Sciences. In this position, I connect students to internship opportunities at local historical sites and support public history research and programming at Widener.

Research Interests

I am primarily interested in how people from Africa, the Americas, and Europe created a new world for all in the centuries following Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. My current book project, provisionally entitled “The Invention of Rum,” examines the emergence of rum as a new type of commodity in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic world. This book is currently under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Since coming to Widener, I have also engaged in conversations with Chester community members regarding the city’s history. I research and present on William Penn’s landing and civil rights protests that engulfed the city (and Widener campus) in the early 1960s. Several related publications are currently in process.

Professional Affiliations & Memberships

McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Omohundro Institute

Awards

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia (2021)
  • Mellon Periclean Faculty Leader, Project Pericles (2020-21)
  • SHEAR Dissertation Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic and the University of Pennsylvania Press (2019)
  • Barra Dissertation Fellow in Art and Material Culture, McNeil Center for Early American Studies (2017-18)

News

In the Media

Noteworthy

  • Widener Hosts Author Patrick Spero for Second Annual Revolutionary Reads Event

    Widener University, in partnership with America 250 PA Delco and Delaware County Libraries, hosted Patrick Spero, author and director of the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon, on campus as part of the ongoing Revolutionary Reads initiative. 

    Spero poke about his book, “Frontier Rebels: The Fight for Independence in the American West,1765-1776,” which shares the untold story of rebellion on the American frontier which helped to spark the American Revolution. Provost Andrew Workman facilitated the discussion.

    Happening through 2026, Revolutionary Reads is a multi-year initiative leading up to the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Assistant Professor of History Jordan Smith represents Widener in this initiative and helps to bring these author events to campus.

    Share link: https://www.widener.edu/news/noteworthy/widener-hosts-author-patrick-spero-second-annual-revolutionary-reads-event

  • History Faculty Recognized by Agricultural History Society

    Assistant Professor of history Jordan Smith has received the Wayne D. Rasmussen Award from the Agricultural History Society for his article “The Native of this Island: Processes of Invention in Early Barbados.” This award recognizes an outstanding article on agricultural history that is published in a journal other than Agricultural History.

    In the article, which was published in the Fall 2022 “Sugar and Slaves at Fifty” special issue of Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Smith explores the contributions of indigenous people and enslaved Africans in the production of rum in the seventeenth century. The article demonstrates that, while officials of the time claimed that rum was native to the island of Barbados, those contributing to the production used their own cultural assumptions to adapt new ingredients and methods to create something new.  

    Share link: https://www.widener.edu/news/noteworthy/history-faculty-recognized-agricultural-history-society

  • History Professor to Attend Summer Seminar on Legacies of American Slavery

    Assistant Professor of History Jordan Smith has been chosen to attend the 2023 Legacies of American Slavery Faculty Seminar hosted by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in New Haven, Connecticut. 

    Smith’s field of research covers a variety of topics stemming from the enslavement of individuals of African descent. From seventeenth- and eighteenth-century rum production through to the historical impact of slavery on the area now known as Chester. He brings this work and much more into his classes as well as into the community to educate others on this deep history.

    The seminar is part of the larger “Legacies of American Slavery” project spearheaded by the CIC, which aims to address the history of slavery with faculty and students from CIC member institutions in various ways. 

    Share link: https://www.widener.edu/news/noteworthy/history-professor-attend-summer-seminar-legacies-american-slavery

  • By Matthew Sullivan '22 communications studies

    Members of Widener and the surrounding communities attended America 250 PA Delco’s Revolutionary Reads event, hosted by Widener University at the Kapelski Learning Center on November 6th, where visiting author Serena Zabin discussed her book The Boston Massacre: A Family History. The event consisted of a discussion of the book between Serena Zabin and Widener President Stacey Robertson, a question-and-answer session with the audience, and concluded with a reception and book signing. 

    Revolutionary Reads is an annual, year-long reading event happening through 2026, where the America 250 PA Delco committee selects a book about the history of the United States of America for the Delaware County community to read. Each book that is chosen by the committee commemorates the upcoming 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with the mission to “ignite imaginations, elevate diverse stories, inspire service, and highlight the American founding and 250 years of American history through Delco’s unique lens.” 

    Serena Zabin is a professor of history and director of the American studies program at Carleton College. Her book, The Boston Massacre: A Family History, explores the Boston Massacre through stories of political and personal conflicts between the soldiers, colonists, and their families during the revolutionary war.

    America 250 PA Delco partnered with Widener University led by Dr. Jordan B. Smith, assistant professor of history, and the Delaware County Library System to present the Revolutionary Reads Community Read visiting author at Widener University. 

    Share link: https://www.widener.edu/news/noteworthy/widener-university-hosts-author-serena-zabin-revolutionary-reads-event

  • Dr. Jordan Smith Awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship

    Dr. Jordan Smith, assistant professor of history, has been awarded a prestigious $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The nationally competitive, semester-long fellowship will support him as he writes the final chapter of his book “The Invention of Rum” based on his research into the invention and production of rum in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British Atlantic world.

    Share link: https://www.widener.edu/news/noteworthy/dr-jordan-smith-awarded-national-endowment-humanities-fellowship