James C. McCann

Former Director, ad interim
Professor of History and Associate Director for Development, African Studies Center, Boston University



BA, Northwestern University; MA, PhD, Michigan State University


African history, environmental history, agricultural history, health and agro-ecological change

James (Jim) McCann



Prof. James McCann, a well-known scholar on the history of the food, ecology, and agriculture of Africa, and served as Director, ad interim, of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future from August 2011 until May 2013.  He joined the faculty of Boston University in 1984, and served as Director of the African Studies Center from 1992 through 2005. He is a Professor of History.

Prof. McCann is author of Maize and Grace: Africa’s Encounter with a New World Crop (2005); Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land: An Environmental History of Africa (1999); People of the Plow: An Agricultural History of Ethiopia (1995); From Poverty to Famine in Northeast Ethiopia: A Rural History (1987).

His book Maize and Grace won the 2006 George Perkins Marsh Prize as the best book in environmental history for 2005 from the American Society for Environmental History. His current book project is Stirring the Pot: The Tastes and Textures of African Cookery. Prof. McCann is also author of numerous articles and book chapters in the area of agricultural and environmental history.

He has held residential fellowships at the DuBois Institute (Harvard University, 2005-2006), the Program of Agrarian Studies (Yale University, 1998–1999), and the National Humanities Center (1991–1992). His research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-Hays, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He currently leads a joint research team investigating the link between malaria and maize cultivation in Africa supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and including the Harvard School of Public Health, the World Health Organization, and the Ethiopian Ministry of Health. He has served as consultant to Oxfam America, Oxfam (UK), the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, the Carter Center, Norwegian Save the Children, the United Nations Environmental Program, American Jewish World Service, the International Livestock Research Institute, and the International Centre for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat. He has twice testified before the United States Congress as well as to the UK House of Parliament.