Dr Danielle Terrazas Williams

Dr Danielle Terrazas Williams


I am a historian of colonial Latin America with an interest in global networks. My research focuses on the social and legal histories of African-descended people in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Mexico, specifically engaging with questions of women’s history, governance, slavery, family, religion, and notions of class and status.

I have just finished my first book project, The Capital of Free Women: Race, Legitimacy, and Liberty in Colonial Mexico (Yale University Press, 2022), that aims to challenge traditional narratives of racial hierarchies and gendered mobility by focusing on African-descended women and their experiences in midcolonial Mexico. With the unification of the Spanish and Portuguese Crowns in 1580, Spain eagerly exploited Portugal’s well-established networks in West and West Central Africa to enslave and forcibly transport hundreds of thousands of people to its Caribbean and American colonies. By the mid-seventeenth century, Mexico was home to more than 150,000 people of African descent, representing the second largest population of African-descended people in the western hemisphere (second only to Brazil). Often only one generation removed from slavery, free African-descended women owned businesses and land, served as influential matriarchs, managed intergenerational wealth, and even owned slaves of African descent. I posit that the same regional “openness” that fostered their ascent throughout the seventeenth century eventually led to their financial (and therefore archival) marginalization by the second half of the eighteenth century. Grounded by sources from the archives of Mexico, Spain, the United States, and Italy, this book takes interest in how Iberian institutions imagined marginalized people and how race and gender influenced the ways in which people navigated the circumscribing forces of imperial demands and religious expectations.

My other scholarship on the Jesuits, legal culture, and early modern women has appeared in History of Religions, Journal of Women’s History, Ulúa, The Americas, and Routledge’s Encyclopedia of the Renaissance World. Most recently, I presented my research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harvard University’s Conference on Afro-Latin American Studies, and the American Historical Association’s annual conference. My next book project continues my work on the Society of Jesus by examining larger questions of early modern governance and religious acculturation in Mexico.


  • Employability Lead

Research interests

Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Cornell University
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Princeton University
  • PhD in History - Duke University
  • MA in History - Duke University
  • BA in Afro-Mexican Studies - Cornell University

Professional memberships

  • American Historical Association (AHA), General Member
  • Latin American Studies Association (LASA), General Member
  • Conference on Latin American History (CLAH), Prize Committee Member
  • The Western Association of Women Historians (WAWH), Prize Committee Member
  • Forum on Early-Modern Empires and Global Interactions (FEEGI)
  • Renaissance Society of America (RSA), General Member

Student education

I teach BA and MA modules on the history of colonial Latin America, slavery, gender, religion, commodities, global empires, the early modern period, race and resistance, migration, and research methodologies.

I am open to offering MA and postgraduate supervision in my areas of specialty.

We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study.

Research groups and institutes

  • Empires and Aftermath

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>