Assistant Professor of History & International Affairs
Jennifer Wells specializes in international law and history, with an emphasis on the intersection of history, law, politics, society, and the state. Wells’s current research projects focus on war crimes, humanitarian law, refugees, and how non-state actors, rogue states, and ungoverned territories are financed through illicit international networks. She is particularly interested in assessing how cultural property and world heritage from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are looted and trafficked to buyers in North America, Europe, and the Gulf in order to fund terrorism and global political violence. This project also investigates cultural property destruction as a war crime and how states and non-state actors destroy world heritage to incite cultural genocide.
Wells has published on a wide range of issues that examine the intersection of history, law, politics, society, and the state, including: international war crimes; terrorism and U.S.-U.K. extradition law; refugee policy in the Middle East; conflict and climate change; British judges and Chinese pirates in 19th-century Hong Kong; local expertise in nation building; and the coercive powers of the state. Her first book, Prelude to Empire: State Building in the Early Modern British World forced a fundamental reassessment of European empire by evaluating the shared links between early modern state formation and colonial expansion. In particular, it focused upon how illegitimate rulers solidified and justified rule domestically through coercive and bureaucratic means. Wells’s work has been supported by a wide variety of national and international institutions, including the American Council of Learned Societies, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Humanities Center, Department of State, European Union, and Irish government.
In addition to these academic pursuits, Wells is an on-air contributor for the BBC and National Geographic Channel. She sits on the board of Genocide Watch and the International Alliance to End Genocide and speaks about these issues to the diplomatic community in Washington, DC. She has worked for Amnesty International and clerked for the U.S. Federal Courts in the Northern District of California.