Portrait of Dr Ben Marsh

Dr Ben Marsh

Senior Lecturer


Ben Marsh found himself accidentally thinking about animals and trees when he started writing a book in 2009, which he has now nearly finished, exploring failed attempts to grow silk in the Atlantic world (c.1500-1840). The humble silkworm fascinated political economists, scientists, colonial projectors and botanists, who bought into ideas of production, metamorphosis, labour, and luxury. In the Spanish, French, and especially British Americas, thousands of households turned their hands to feeding and nurturing Bombyx mori, though for various environmental and economic reasons the silkworms could never colonise the Americas with as much success as they had other parts of the globe. Lately, he has turned his attention to a much less vaunted or understood kind of worm, but one with arguably a larger impact on the American South, as he seeks out evidence of hookworms and the toll they took on New World populations (black and white) before the nineteenth century.

Last updated 13th October 2020