Laird W. Bergad is Disingished Professor of Latin American and Caribbean history in the Department of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies at Lehman College and the Ph.D. Program in History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. A member of CUNY's faculty since 1980, he has served as Director of Lehman College's interdisciplinary program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Chair of the Department of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies, and on the Executive Committees of the CUNY/Cuba (and later Caribbean) Scholarly Exchange Program as well as on the CUNY-University of Puerto Rico Exchange. Professor Bergad is the founding director of the CUNY Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies.
He did his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin where he received a B.A. degree in History in 1970. An M.A. was completed at the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 and a Ph.D. was conferred in Latin American and Caribbean history in 1980.
Professor Bergad's research interests have revolved around the social, economic, and demographic history of slave-based plantation societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. His first book, Coffee and the Growth of Agrarian Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico (Princeton University Press, 1983), was based upon previously unutilized documentary materials housed at the Archivo General de Puerto Rico. This work revised the analytical framework for understanding Puerto Rican history prior to the United States occupation and annexation of 1898 by systematically demonstrating that the island's economic structure had made the transition to a fully developed market economy during the 19th century.
He was one of the first foreign scholars to be granted unrestricted access to Cuban historical archives during the early 1980s, and his work there resulted in the publication of two books. The first, Cuban Rural Society in the Nineteenth Century: The Social and Economic History of Monoculture in Matanzas (Princeton University Press, 1990), is a detailed examination of the rise and evolution of the sugar plantation economy in the most important sugar-producing region of the world (the Cuban province of Matanzas) during the 19th century.
The second, The Cuban Slave Market, 1790-1880 (Cambridge University Press, 1995) [co-authored with Fe Iglesias García and María Carmen Barcia of the Cuban Institute of History] was the first empirical examination of the demographic and price structure of Cuban slave society during the island's reign as the Caribbean's leading sugar-producing and slave importing society.
Professor Bergad turned his attention to Brazil where he began work in 1992 in the historical archives of Brazil's largest slave-holding province during the 18th and 19th centuries, Minas Gerais. The Demographic and Economic History of Slavery in Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1720-1888 (Cambridge University Press, 1999) is a detailed study of slavery in Brazil and has been translated into Portuguese as A Escravidão e a História Econômica e Demográfica de Minas Gerais, Brasil, 1720-1888 (São Paulo: EDUSC, 2005).
In 2007 Professor Bergad published The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States was published by Cambridge University Press.
His most recent book, co-authored with Prof. Herbert S. Klein, Professor of History and Director of Stanford University's Center for Latin American Studies, Hispanics in America: A Social, Economic, and Demographic History, 1980 - 2005 was published in October 2010.
Professor Bergad has won a number of internationally recognized awards. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1986/87 and won a research grant from the Social Science Research Council in the same years. He was a Fulbright Fellow at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in 1992/93 and was awarded a second Fulbright to teach at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain in 2000 (Declined). He also won a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers in 1996 and 1997