Elena A. Schneider

Associate Professor

I am a historian of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic World. My research focuses on Cuba and the Caribbean, comparative colonialism and slavery, and the Black Atlantic. Methodologically, I seek to write history that moves across regional, imperial, and national boundaries, integrating diverse stories normally told separately. I am also committed to the practice of writing history “from below” and the challenging archival work that makes reconstructing the experiences of historically marginalized peoples possible.

My first book The Occupation of Havana is a longue durée history of the causes, central dynamics, and enduring consequences of a crucial incident of imperial warfare, the British invasion, occupation, and return of Havana (1762-3) during the final stages of the Seven Years’ War. The book focuses on the central but overlooked role that people of African descent played in this event and uses it to show how African-descended peoples and rivalry over the slave trade shaped and reshaped European empires. It has won multiple prizes, including the James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic History from the American Historical Association, the Bryce Wood Award of the Latin American Studies Association, the Murdo J. McLeod Prize of the Southern Historical Association, the Biennial Book Prize of the Forum on European Empires and Global Interaction, and a Special Commendation from the Association of Caribbean Historians.  

Recently I have been working on the history of maritime marronage in the Caribbean (or those who escaped slavery by sea). I guest edited a forum in the journal Slavery & Abolition on that topic. My second book project is on Afro-Cuban returnees to Africa in the 19th century. I am tracing the story of the hundreds of men, women, and children--many of them survivors of the Middle Passage--who attained their freedom in Cuba and managed to return to their wartorn homelands in Yoruba territory (present-day Nigeria).  

I teach classes on imperialism, slavery, race, and revolution in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic World, from before Columbus to the present day. I especially love integrating the study of art, film, music, and dance into the history classroom. Graduate students working with me pursue diverse themes in Latin American, Caribbean, Indigenous, African, and Atlantic histories.


PhD in History, Princeton University

MA in History, Princeton University

AB in History & Literature, Harvard University

Faculty Field

Cuba and the Caribbean; colonial Latin America; The Atlantic World, c. 1400-1898

Academic Appointments

Associate Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley, 2013-

NEH Postdoctoral Fellow, Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, 2011-2013

Visiting Assistant Professor of History, The College of William & Mary, 2011-2013

Selected Awards & Fellowships

Kemble Fellowship, The Huntington Library, 2022-2023

Hellman Fellowship Award, 2017

Townsend Center for the Humanities Fellowship, 2015-2016

Maureen Ahern Doctoral Dissertation Award in Colonial Latin American Studies, Finalist, 2014

Naomi Wulf Prize, European Early American Studies Association, 2013

Representative Publications

"The Occupation of Havana" by Elena Schneider The Occupation of Havana: War, Trade, and Slavery in the Atlantic World (Omohundro Institute/UNC Press, 2018)

"A Narrative of Escape: Self Liberation by Sea and the Mental Worlds of the Enslaved," Slavery & Abolition, 42:3 (2021), 484-501.

"Routes into Eighteenth-century Cuban Slavery: African Diaspora and Geopolitics," in From the Galleons to the Highlands: Slave Trade Routes in the Spanish Americas, edited by Alex Borucki, David Eltis, and David Wheat (University of New Mexico Press, 2020), 249-274.

"Unhappy History: Let's Reflect on What U.S. and Cuba Have in Common," San Francisco Chronicle, November 22, 2019.

"The Struggles of Cuba's Black Soldiers in an Age of Imperial Wars,Age of Revolutions Blog, December 3rd, 2018.

"Esclavitud y libertad en tiempos de guerra: Respuestas al sitio británico de La Habana, 1762-1763 [Slavery and Freedom in Times of War: Responses to the British Siege of Havana (1762-1763]," Revista de Indias, LXXIV: 2755 (2019): 143-163.

"African Slavery and Spanish Empire: Imperial Imaginings and Bourbon Reform in Eighteenth-century Cuba and Beyond," Journal of Early American History, 5:1 (2015): 3-29.

"Cuba," Oxford Bibliographies Online: Atlantic History, ed. by Trevor Burnard, Oxford University Press (www.oxfordbibliographies.com).

"Testerian Hieroglyphs: Language, Colonization, and Conversion in Colonial Mexico," Princeton University Library Chronicle, Vol. LXIX, No. 1 (Autumn 2007): pp. 9-42.