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Samuel Dolbee

Assistant Professor of History
D Family Dean’s Faculty Fellow in Studies of the Middle East

Samuel Dolbee is an environmental historian of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East, with interests in agriculture, disease, and science. He teaches courses in the Department of History and as part of the Climate Studies major. 


His first book was published in 2023 by Cambridge University Press and is entitled Locusts of Power: Borders, Empire, and Environment in the Modern Middle East. The book offers a new account of the end of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of the states of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey grounded in the ecology of the Jazira region, its mobile people, and distinctive locusts. It unearths what borders meant in the lives of not only locusts but also Arab and Kurdish nomads, Armenian deportees, and Assyrian refugees. His next project is an environmental history of the microbe in the late Ottoman Empire. It is concerned at once with new treatments and spatial controls established against ailments like phylloxera, rabies, and rinderpest—which devastated the empire’s grape vines, street dogs, and cattle—as well as the way the language of germs infected the language of politics in the empire’s final years.


Dolbee’s scholarship has appeared in the American Historical Review, Past & Present, and International Journal of Middle East Studies. He has also contributed chapters to edited volumes on the history of food and disease, respectively. He is the editor in chief of Ottoman History Podcast.


Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Dolbee was a lecturer on History & Literature at Harvard. He previously held postdoctoral fellowships at Yale’s Program in Agrarian Studies, Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center, and Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies. Dolbee completed his PhD at New York University in the joint program in History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, and has an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and a BA in History and International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.