Email Address

Mackenzie Cooley is an intellectual historian who studies the uses, abuses, and understandings of the natural world in early modern science and medicine. Her first book, The Perfection of Nature: Animals, Humans, and Race in the Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 2022), offers a deep history of how Renaissance Italy and the Spanish empire were shaped by a lingering fascination with breeding. Her research has been funded by the Fulbright Foundation and Mellon Foundation, among other grants. Over 2021-22, Cooley was Villa I Tatti Residential Fellow at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies where she developed research for her second monograph, Treasury of Knowledge: Medicine in Renaissance Empire. She is presently co-editing two volumes: Natural Things: Ecologies of Knowledge in the Early Modern World and Knowing an Empire: Imperial Science in the Chinese and Spanish Empires, 1500-1800.

Cooley is committed to incorporating original research into her teaching, including through the New World Nature history laboratory. In 2021, she was awarded the John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award at Hamilton College.

Recent Courses Taught

Conquest of the Americas
Scientific Revolution
History of European Thought, 1345-1789
History of European Thought, 1789 to the Present
Race and the Origins of the Modern World

Research Interests

History of Science; Early Modern World; Colonial Latin America; Environmental History; History of Gender and Sexuality; Animal Studies; Genetics and History

Select Publications

  • The Perfection of Nature: Animals, Breeding, and Race in the Renaissance. In Press. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, September 2022. (Winner of the 2019 Cappadocia Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript for the Society of Italian Historical Studies)
  • “The Giant Remains: Mesoamerican Medicine, Extinction, and Cycles of Empire,” Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society, Volume 112, number 1, (2021), 45-67.
  • “Teaching Tepahtia: A Pedagogical Reflection on Knowledge and Medicine in Mexico, 1400-1600,” Journal of Medieval Worlds, Volume 1, Number 3, (2019), 85-104.
  • “The Tira of Don Martin: A Living Nahua Chronicle,” Alanna Radlo-Dzur, Mackenzie Cooley, Emily Kaplan, Leah Bright, E. Keats Webb, Mary Elizabeth Haude, Tana Villafana, Amanda K. Satorius, Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, Volume 3, Number 3, (2021), 7-37.
  •  “Marketing Nobility: Horsemanship in Renaissance Italy,” Animals at Court, Europe, c. 1200-1800, Mark Hengerer and Nadir Weber, eds. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), 109-126.
  • “Diamond in the Rough: Nobility and Spanish Naples in Lope de Vega’s El perro del hortelano,” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Volume 19, Number 3, (2019): 71-97.
  • “Southern Italy and the New World in the Age of Encounters.” The Discovery of the New World in Early Modern Italy. Elizabeth Horodowich and Lia Markey, eds. Cambridge University Press. 2017.
  • Beasts and Books: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Rare Books and Manuscripts in Stanford Libraries’ Special Collections. Stanford: Stanford University Libraries, 2015. Preface by Paula Findlen.

Professional Affiliations

Renaissance Society of America
History of Science Society
Southwest Seminar on Latin American History
American Historical Association 
LA Global

Appointed to the Faculty


Educational Background

Ph.D., Stanford University
M.A., Stanford University
B.A., Cornell University


Animal Empires: The Perfection of Nature Between Europe and the Americas, 1492-1630

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