Remembering History Professor Christopher Schmidt-Nowara

Holder of the Prince of Asturias Chair in Spanish Culture, he was known for his research on slavery and emancipation in the Hispanic world
June 30, 2015

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Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, a professor of history and holder of the Prince of Asturias Chair in Spanish Culture and Civilization, died after a brief illness June 27 while visiting his daughter in Paris. He was 48.

Schmidt-Nowara joined the Department of History in the fall of 2011. His research focused on the history of slavery and emancipation in the Hispanic world and the history of politics and ideas in the Spanish empire, especially during the imperial crises of the 19th century.

Christopher Schmidt-NowaraRecently, he had embarked on a new study of Spanish prisoners of war during the resistance against French rule (1808-1814) and the independence struggles in Spanish America (1810-1830). He was also editing and annotating the 400-page unpublished diary of the Spanish prisoner of war Fernando Blanco y Crespo, who recounted his dramatic escape from captivity in France during the waning days of Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule.

“The history department fondly remembers Chris as an inspiring teacher, brilliant scholar and a warm, friendly and endearing colleague,” wrote Peniel Joseph, a professor of history, in a message to the Arts and Sciences community. “He was a passionate follower of Boston sports, a lover of good beer and food and a committed mentor to junior colleagues. Above all, however, he was a devoted father, brother, son and friend who will be greatly missed, but whose presence will remain in our hearts.”

Schmidt-Nowara’s most recent book was Slavery and Antislavery in Spain’s Atlantic Empire (Berghahn Books, 2013), which he co-edited with Josep M. Fradera, a history professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. His earlier book, Slavery, Freedom and Abolition in Latin America and the Atlantic World (University of New Mexico Press, 2011), was selected by Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries as one of the year’s outstanding academic titles.

He served on the editorial board of three journals: the recently founded Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, Illes i Imperis/Islands and Empires (published at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Social History, for which he edited two special issues, one on contemporary Spanish historiography (August 2004) and the other on emancipation in the Caribbean (August 2011). He was also a member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University.

Before coming to Tufts, Schmidt-Nowara was a Magis Distinguished Professor and associate chair of the history department at Fordham University. He received a B.A. from Kenyon College in 1988 and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1995. He also taught at Stanford and had been a visiting professor and fellow at the University of Puerto Rico, the University of São Paulo, Princeton and the Fernand Braudel Center at Binghamton.

“For those of us who took his excellent courses, who engaged him in conversation about history and its meaning, who enjoyed learning about his daughter or the latest baseball news, or who worked with him on the faculty research awards committee or other committees, Chris’ absence will be acutely felt,” James M. Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a message to the Arts and Sciences community. “May his memory be a blessing to us all.”

In addition to his daughter, Althea, he is survived by his mother, his father, a sister and a brother.

A celebration of Schmidt-Nowara’s life will take place on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 11 a.m. to noon in the Coolidge Room on the second floor of Ballou Hall on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus. A reception will follow.