Texas Tech University

John William Nelson

John William NelsonJohn Nelson specializes in the history of early America, with an emphasis on the borderlands of indigenous North America and the colonial Atlantic World. His research examines the ways ecology and geography shaped the terms of cross-cultural interaction between Native peoples and European colonizers from first contact through the early republican era of the United States.

Dr. Nelson earned his B.A. at Gettysburg College (2013) and his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame (2020). His current book project, provisionally titled Five Miles of Muddy Ground: Native Peoples, Europeans, and the Chicago Portage, explores how a particular local landscape along Chicago's continental divide influenced colonial encounters from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.

At Texas Tech, Nelson offers courses in United States history, Colonial America, the American West, Atlantic World, and Native American history.

Nelson has published work on the American West, the American Revolution, and the environmental history of the Great Lakes region. His article "The Ecology of Travel on the Great Lakes Frontier: Native Knowledge, European Dependence, and the Environmental Specifics of Contact" won the 2018 prize for best article in the Michigan Historical Review. He has received generous grants and fellowships through the Newberry Library, the Bentley Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the William Clements Library.