I study the history of early modern globalization, and am writing a dissertation and future book manuscript on the origins of the global drug trade in the 17th and 18th centuries, which you can read read about here.
I'm also an editor and co-founder of The Appendix and maintain an occasional blog about early modern history at Res Obscura. In my spare time I enjoy drawing and painting, gardening, and collecting odds and ends.
You can reach me at Ben[at]theappendix.net.
''Whoso desireth to know what will be hereafter, let him think of what is past, for the world hath ever been in a circular revolution; whatsoever is now, was heretofore; and things past or present, are no other than such as shall be again: Redit orbis in orbem.'' - Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618).
The Appendix, Appendixed. (forthcoming)
To be published June 26, 2013 in Issue Vol. 1, No. 2
Even The Appendix needs an appendix. For this issue, we share a timeline of apocalypses, real or (happily) imagined.
Published March 20, 2013 in Issue Vol. 1, No. 1
The word "Apocalypse" can mean both "an uncovering" and "an ending." Benjamin Breen explores the ambiguous history of what apocalypse means, and how it has been survived, from the fall of Ur in 2000 BCE Mesopotamia to the Heaven's Gate cult in 1990s California.
Published January 2, 2013 in Issue Vol. 1, No. 1
A founder of the Jet Propulsion Lab was a self-taught chemist without a college degree who was also a fervent alchemist and occultist. Magic, it turns out, actually has quite a lot to do with rocket science.
Published May 8, 2013
Appendix co-editor Ben Breen explains the thought process that went into choosing the cover of Issue Two, "Illusions," and shares other photographs-within-photographs from the same series.
Published April 15, 2013
The Appendix wishes you a happy Lupercalia, the wolfish festival that inspired our modern holiday of love.
Published February 14, 2013
A 1696 engraving of a "Capivard, or water hog, at the foot of a banana tree" found in an early modern French book opens up a discussion of how images circulate in print and online.
Published January 21, 2013
Poisonous tomatoes, meth in the 1950s, and the deep history of clove cigarettes: a miscellany of lore related to food and drugs.
Published January 9, 2013
A selection of 17th and 18th century medicinal drug recipes -- many bizarre, some familiar -- found by the author in historical archives in Portugal and Philadelphia.
Published December 18, 2012
Comments and responses to "Cabinets of Curiosity: the Web as Wunderkammer."
Published December 3, 2012
Curiosity cabinets are usually thought of as antique oddities from another age. But isn't the internet a bit like a curiosity cabinet? If so, is that a good or bad thing?
Published November 28, 2012
Digital communication is changing how we think about the past as well as the present. But can we think big about the past while resisting the temptation to replace the "Great Men" theory of history with its 21st century counterpart, "Big Data"?
Published November 11, 2012