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Joe Borsato


Joe Borsato is a final year PhD candidate in the Department of History at Queen’s University, where he researches the histories of Indigenous peoples and early modern global history. His broad interests include the histories of Indigenous power, Indigenous law, Indigenous relations with New France, the moral philosophy of European colonization, the political ecology of empire, rhetoric, and the political thought of corporations.

Joe’s doctoral project takes a hemispheric perspective by investigating Anglo-Indigenous relations in the Atlantic world, including in Wabanakik (Acadia), K’taqamkuk (Newfoundland), Wînipâkw (the Hudson Bay watershed), Tsenacommacah (Virginia), Güiri noko (Guiana), and the Caribbean in the early seventeenth century. Specifically, the project examines the early Wabanaki, Beothuk, Cree, Powhatan, Arawak, and Kalinago expressions of territorial possession against English colonization. Through an investigation of archival records in the British Library, the National Archives of the UK, the Lambeth Palace Library, the Bodleian Library, la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the National Library of Ireland, the project combines the methods of Indigenous history and intellectual history to contextualize the mutual foundations of Indigenous legal claims and international law. Given the Government of Canada’s recent implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2021, the historical relationship between Indigenous land rights and international law is one of considerable pertinence.

His second project examines Indigenous rhetoric and oratory against European empires globally in the longue durée of the early modern period. He is also currently serving as a research assistant for Dr. Scott Berthelette on a project tracing Haudenosaunee voyagers in the seventeenth century Mediterranean world. 

Over the past four years he has received support from numerous international organizations and funds, including most recently as a SSHRC scholar (2020-2024), Robert L. Middlekauff Fellow at the Huntington Library (2023-2024), a Paul Oskar Kristeller Fellow with the Renaissance Society of America (2024), and as a Sansom Ideas Foundation scholar (2023-2024). With previous work experience in First Nation communities, sustainability non-profits, and the heritage sector, Joe also serves as a Teaching Fellow at Queen's, teaching first-year survey courses in European & Mediterranean history from antiquity to the modern period and fourth-year seminar courses on Indigenous Peoples and European Empires in the early modern period. He is fortunate to work with Dr. Scott Berthelette and Dr. Jeffrey Collins. 

"All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it's impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively." - Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (1513)

Book Reviews

Winchcombe, Rachel. Encountering Early America. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021. In Journal of British Studies 62:2 (2023).

Pluymers, Keith. No Wood, No Kingdom: Political Ecology in the English Atlantic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021. In Ethnohistory 70:2 (2023).

Stern, Philip. Empire, Incorporated: The Corporations that Built British Colonialism. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2023. Forthcoming with Global Intellectual History.


In the News

PhD Candidates Alex Martinborough, Amelia Rosch, and Joe Borsato Awarded for their Presentations at the 2023 Northeast Conference of British Studies

PhD candidates Alex Martinborough and Amelia Rosch have each received the David Underdown Prize for the best graduate student paper delivered at the 2023 Northeast Conference on British Studies, and PhD candidate Joe Borsato was awarded an honorable mention. 

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.