Jacob Lee

Assistant Professor, Department of History

Department of History

  • jaflee@indiana.edu
  • Ballantine Hall 808
    1020 E Kirkwood Ave
    Bloomington, IN47405-7103
  • Office Hours
    W ednesday
    1:15-3:15p or by appointment
IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

I specialize in the history of early America and the American West.  My current book project, tentatively-titled Rivers of Power: Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of America (under contract with Harvard University Press), combines social and environmental history to present a new view of colonialism in early America.  Rivers of Power embeds intertwined Native and imperial histories in the physical landscape of Middle America, a vast region encompassing much of the central Mississippi River valley.  In the centuries between the collapse of the ancient metropolis of Cahokia around A.D. 1300 and the rise of the imperial United States in the early 1800s, power flowed through the kinship-based alliances and social networks that controlled travel and communication along the many rivers of the midcontinent.  Drawing on a range of English-, French-, and Spanish-language sources, as well as ethnographies, oral histories, and the archaeological record, this book reveals the power of personal relationships and the environment to shape the course of empires and nations.

Honors and Awards

  • John Carter Brown Library Associates Fellowship, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University
  • Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, Huntington Library
  • Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Illinois Fellowship, Newberry Library
  • Filson Fellowship, The Filson Historical Society
  • Bancroft Library Summer Study Award, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jacob M. Price Visiting Research Fellowship, William B. Clements Library, University of Michigan
  • General Research Fellowship, Kentucky Historical Society

Research Interests

  • Early America
  • The American West
  • Borderlands
  • Colonialism
  • Environmental history


  • Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, 2014

Courses Taught

  • The American West to 1850
  • Civil War and Reconstruction
  • American History to 1865
  • The American West in Popular Culture
  • American Environmental Disasters


  • Rivers of Power: Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of America (under contract with Harvard University Press)
  • "Unionism, Emancipation, and the Origins of Kentucky's Confederate Identity," The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 111 (Spring 2013): 199-233. Winner, Richard H. Collins Award, Kentucky Historical Society
  • "'Whether It Really Be Truth or Fiction': Colonel Reuben T. Durrett, the Filson Club, and Historical Memory in Postbellum Kentucky," Ohio Valley History 9 (Winter 2009): 27-47.
  • "'Between Two Fires': Cassius M. Clay, Slavery, and Antislavery in the Kentucky Borderlands," Ohio Valley History 6 (Fall 2006): 50-70.