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Department of History


Andrew Berns

Title: Associate Professor
Department: History
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-4216
Office: Gambrell Hall, Room 229
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
Department of History
Jewish Studies Program
Portrait photo of Berns posing outside in a red flannel shirt and glasses.


Andrew Berns teaches and writes about Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History in Italy, Spain, and throughout the Mediterranean.

He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, and has been the Melville J. Kahn Fellow at Villa I Tatti: the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies; the Viterbi Visiting Professor in Mediterranean Jewish Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Rose and Henry Zifkin Teaching Fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania.

His first book, The Bible and Natural Philosophy in Renaissance Italy: Jewish and Christian Physicians in Search of Truth was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.  It shows how changes in European medicine prompted new readings of the Bible and other classical texts, and was awarded the 2016 Howard R. Marraro Prize from the American Catholic Historical Association.

His next book, The Land is Mine: Sephardi Jews, Land Use, and Bible Commentary in the Renaissance, was published 2022 by Penn Press in its Jewish Culture and Contexts series.  The book presents Renaissance Iberian Jewish intellectuals as deeply concerned with questions about human relationships to land.  Based on the biblical commentaries of a group of rabbis and writers who were exiled from Spain in 1492, The Land is Mine grounds Jewish exegesis in the moral philosophy, political economy, and environmental changes of this turbulent period.

Recent Podcast Appearances

Take on the South: "Unlearning the South

Selected Publications:

"The Importance of Agriculture in Medieval Jewish Life: the Case of Crete," in Jewish History (forthcoming: 2019) [pdf]

“I Signed but I Did not Say”: The Status of Chess in Early Modern Judaism,” in Lucio Biasiori and Carlo Ginzburg, eds., A Historical Approach to Casuistry: Norms and Exceptions in a Comparative Perspective, (London: Bloomsbury, 2018). [pdf]

 “Ovadiah Sforno's Last Will and Testament,” Journal of Jewish Studies 68:1 (Spring 2017): 1-33 [pdf]

“Ulisse Aldrovandi and the Role of Hebrew in Natural Philosophy in Early Modern Italy,” in Scott Mandelbrote and Joanna Weinberg, eds., Jewish Books and Their Readers: Aspects of the Intellectual Life of Christians and Jews in Early Modern Europe (Leiden: Brill, 2016): 191-210 [pdf]

"The Place of Paradise in Renaissance Jewish Thought," Journal of the History of Ideas 75:3 (July 2014): 351-71 [pdf]

"Back to Nature," Tablet, August 14, 2018

"Hunting for Deer—and Meaning," Tablet, November 2, 2016

"The Scent of the Field," Tikkun 31:2 (2016): 23-24

Further details are available on

Recent Courses:

HIST 101: Introduction to Western Civilization
HIST 309: The European Renaissance
SCHC 328: Judaism and Ecology
HIST 382: History of Medicine: Antiquity to the Scientific Revolution
HIST 383: Ancient and Medieval Jewish History
HIST 384: Modern Jewish HIstory
HIST 388: Kabbalah: Science, Religion & Nature in Western History
HIST 497: God and Nature
HIST 700: Environmental History
HIST 815: Dissertation Prospectus Seminar


B.A. Reed College
MPhil. Cambridge University
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania

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