Edna Bonhomme

Postdoctoral Fellow
Postdoctoral Fellows are early career scholars who are ordinarily no more than five years past the granting of the doctorate and who are financed in part or in whole by the MPIWG. These scholars carry minor responsibilities (no more than 10% of their time) within their research unit.
Department III
August 1, 2017 to July 31, 2019

Edna Bonhomme is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Department III. She was trained as a biologist at Reed College (BA), public health practitioner at Columbia University (MPH), and historian of science at Princeton University (MA, PhD). Her dissertation titled, “Plague Bodies and Spaces: Medicine, Trade, and Death in Ottoman Egypt, 1705-1830 CE,” examined the commercial and geopolitical trajectory of plague and its direct links to commercial, provincial, and imperial policies in several North African port cities.


Edna’s main research interest focuses on the intersection of medicine, migration, trade, and imperialism. Related research interests include historical materialism, scientific institutions, and digital mapping. Her current research traces epidemics, public health, and scientific practice in Algiers, Alexandria, and Tunis and shows how they were linked to European expansion of commerce and colonial power. The transition from the early modern to the modern period produced a particular form of organization and relationship whereby capitalism, European militarization, and Arab medical modernization were linked to the imperative to control epidemics and people. Port cities were particularly subject to that surveillance insofar that states, merchants, and international organizations—in the modern period—systematically tracked goods and people for the sake of managing epidemics.




Max Planck Institute for the History of Science 
Boltzmannstraße 22 
14195 Berlin