Mackenzie Cooley

The Society of Italian Historical Studies has awarded Assistant Professor of History Mackenzie Cooley the 2019 Cappadocia Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript.  She received this award for her doctoral dissertation, "Animal Empires: The Perfection of Nature between Europe and the Americas, 1492-1630," completed at Stanford University in 2018.  She received the award at the Society's meeting on Jan. 5 at the American Historical Association Conference in Chicago.

Marla Stone, professor of history at Occidental College, announced the award with the following statement: “Mackenzie Cooley’s dissertation, ‘Animal Empires: The Perfection of Nature Between Europe and the Americas, 1492-1630’ (Stanford University, 2018) is a bold and erudite project. Its breath, conceptual originality, and archival ambition qualify it as an advanced scholarly achievement. Cooley examines, from multiple analytical perspectives, the intertwined problems of reproduction, renewal, and improvement. She follows the relationship between these ideas through the world of horse-breeding, debates about noble identity, animal husbandry, utopian literature, imperial knowledge production, and taxonomic philosophy.

Her account is rooted in Renaissance Italy, but then migrates from Spanish Italy to the New World, nourishing itself from archival and printed material from repositories in five countries. This manuscript accomplishes the rare feat of combining exacting research into premodern sources with profound questions of immediate societal importance concerning the perfectibility of nature.”

Last semester, Cooley took her first-year Conquest of the Americas class to the John CarterHamilton Students Contemplate the Tovar Codex with Curator Kim Nusco Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island where students had the opportunity to study the most extraordinary set of documents on colonial Latin American history available in the United States. While the library is normally closed to outsiders and notoriously difficult to access even for those with a Ph.D., Hamilton students had the chance to work with documents, tour the collections, and meet fellows at the research institute, including Professor Iris Montero, award-winning author Surekha Davies, and acclaimed historian Jack Greene.

Students were able to view the priceless Tovar Codex, one of the indigenous Mexican documents still in existence today. Likewise, they pondered one of the original Columbus letters announcing the discovery of the Americas, the first biological report of American nature, an Aztec calendar, and paintings from historian William Prescott's collection, before turning to their own research objects which became the foci of their final papers. These included a conquistador's book on counter-insurgency tactics, a book of medicines, and three indigenous dictionaries that feature Caribe, Nahuatl, and Quechua.


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