photo credit: Kate Joyce/Santa Fe Institute
This site is the personal webpage of Kyle Harper.
I am a historian interested in the ways that humanity has shaped nature and vice versa. I hold the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty and am Professor of Classics and Letters, Senior Advisor to the President, and Provost Emeritus at my alma mater, the University of Oklahoma. I am also a Fractal Faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.
My main research interests include the history of infectious disease and climate change and their impact on human societies. More broadly, I write on the history of humans as agents of ecological change and asks how we can approach questions such as biodiversity, health, and environmental sustainability from a historical perspective.
I have written four books. My first, Slavery in the Late Roman World, was published in 2011 and awarded the James Henry Breasted Prize. My second book, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality, appeared in 2013 and received the Award for Excellence in Historical Studies from the American Academy of Religion. My third book, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, was first published in 2017 and subsequently translated into 12 languages. My fourth book, Plagues upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History, is a global history of infectious disease spanning from human origins to COVID-19. It tells the story of humanity’s long and distinctive struggle with pathogenic microbes. It was the 2021 PROSE winner for best book in the history of science, technology, and medicine.
My next book, The Last Animal, is a history of humans and other animals, emphasizing the ways that other animals have been instrumental in our success, and the ways that our success is a danger to global biodiversity on par with the most catastrophic events in the history of the planet. Like my previous two books, it will be published by Princeton University Press.
I live in Moore, OK with my wife, our four kids, and our dog. I love my native Oklahoma, its people, culture, food, fauna, and amazingly beautiful land.