Steve Berry

Associate Professor and Department Chair of History

Steve Berry attended Vanderbilt University where he double majored in History and Fine Arts earning the Bachelor of Arts and later a Masters of Education degrees. Berry also holds a M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary as well as a M.L.I.S. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. Berry earned a doctoral degree in the Graduate Program in Religion of Duke University with qualifying exams on colonial America history, the history of religion in America, history of Reformation Europe, and Atlantic World travel literature. Berry’s doctoral dissertation, “Seaborne Conversions 1700-1800” examined the role of religion aboard eighteenth-century British sailing vessels crossing the Atlantic.

Berry has been a member of the History Department at Simmons University in Boston since 2007 where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Early American and Atlantic World history. Berry currently direct the department’s undergraduate program in public history, which means teaching an introductory course on public history that is combined with the history of Boston, a course that focuses on the role of objects in historical understanding, as well as supervising internships at a variety of museums and historic sites in the area. Berry teaches separate graduate and undergraduate courses on the history of the Atlantic World from Columbus to the Haitian Revolution. Berry normally handles the first half of the American history survey, which covers colonization through reconstruction as well as an African-American history survey course. Finally, Berry typically teaches our department’s core seminar for our undergraduate majors, “Interpreting the Past,” which introduces students to the theory and method of history. As a teacher of the humanities, Berry’s two overall goals for students in all of his courses are to be critical thinkers and excellent writers. 

Berry lives in Maynard, Massachusetts with his wife Dana and their teenage daughter and son. In his spare time, I enjoy reading and playing board games. In addition to writing about ships, Berry love sailing, but realizes that he knows just enough about boats to be a danger to others and himself.


  • HIST 140 History of American Civilization I: 1607–1877
  • HIST 210 The African American Experience from Colonial Times to the Present
  • HIST 240 The Atlantic World, 1500–1800
  • HIST 252/HON322 History and Material Culture
  • HIST 253/HON320 Boston’s Past: Introduction to Public History
  • HIST 260 Interpreting the Past: the Craft of History
  • HIST 370 Internship
  • HIST 372/572 Race and Gender in the Atlantic World
  • HIST 376/576 The American Revolution
  • HIST 378/578 Lives of Faith

Research/Creative Activities

Berry’s major goal as a historian of American cultural history is to understand the practice of religion in people’s daily lives as they interacted with one another in societies marked by cultural, socio-economic, racial, and gender difference. Berry’s work pursues this overall goal specifically by investigating the cultural encounters and cross-currents in the antebellum South and colonial British Atlantic world, particularly the development of functional religious toleration.

Berry’s new research project, which will hopefully lead to a second book, examines how American seamen mediated knowledge of world religions and cultures amidst the rapid changes in nineteenth century America. This research is currently being supported by a joint fellowship of the Boston Athenaeum and the Congregational Library whose excellent archival and print collections are providing a rich foundation for his investigation of early America.


Berry’s first book entitled A Path in the Mighty Waters: Shipboard Life and the Atlantic Crossing to the New World is from Yale University Press, January, 2015.