Is environmental history our best hope for the future?
This question, posed by Patricia Nelson Limerick (Center for the American West) in a conversation with Christof Mauch (Rachel Carson Center), ignited plans for a more in-depth discussion about the future of the field. The resulting invitation-only workshop, which co-sponsored by the National History Center, the Rachel Carson Center at the University of Munich, and the Center for the American West, drew environmental historians from four continents to Washington D.C. last June to discuss “opportunities and needs in environmental history.” The emerging field of environmental history is ready to contribute historical knowledge, perspective, and understanding to the diverse issues the planet faces. While environmental history field grew out of the environmentalism movement, its future subjects, collaborators, and impacts within the discipline of history, as well as within the public arena, are up for debate.
Those participants in the conference included James M. Banner, Jr. (National History Center); David Blackbourn (Harvard University); Carolyn Thompson Brown (John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress); Peter Coates (University of Bristol); Kimberly Coulter (Rachel Carson Center); Miriam Hauss Cunningham (National History Center); John Gillis (Rutgers University); Arnita Jones (American Historical Association); Christof Mauch (Rachel Carson Center); John McNeill (Georgetown); Martin V. Melosi (University of Houston); Marta Niepytalska (Rachel Carson Center); Stephen Pyne (Arizona State University); Mahesh Rangarajan (University of Delhi); Harriet Ritvo (MIT); Libby Robin (Australian National University); Frank Uekoetter (Rachel Carson Center); Richard Walker (University of California, Berkeley); Douglas R. Weiner (University of Arizona); Richard White (Stanford University); Frank Zelko (University of Vermont). They set about trying to answer the question of the future of the field, starting with taking stock of the current landscape and moving into how environmental history and research can have real-world effect.
They have gathered their thoughts and reflections on the conference for a special issue of the Rachel Carson Center’s Perspectives that is now available online. As Kimberly Coulter writes in the introduction, “Together, the sixteen contributions offer diverse insights and concerns about the future of the field from those working in environmental history and related disciplines.”
A short film based on the conference is also available online.
(Full disclosure: Patricia Nelson Limerick and Christof Mauch are members of the board of trustees of the National History Center.)
The National History Center has entered into a partnership with New Books In History , which audiocast interviews with historians discussing their latest research and writing.
The first in the series offered in conjunction with the New Books in History, focuses on the the Reinterpreting History books, published by Oxford University Press. The volumes in the series aim to convey to readers how and why historians revise and reinterpret their understanding of the past, and they do so by focusing on a particular historical topic, event, or idea that has long gained the attention of historians.
This podcast deals with the volume Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal. Marshall Poe, editor of “New Books”, interviewed the editors of the volume, Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan.
The interview is available now online.
As Professor Poe suggests, “You may think that historians normally study states or nations, like France and China. But they also study areas of international or imperial interaction. The most famous example of this sort of ‘international’ history is Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (1949), but there are many others.’
As a relatively new field, the object of study is the “Atlantic World,” roughly, the history of the interaction of four continents (Africa, Europe, North America and South America) from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. In this podcast, Greene and Morgan talk about the origin of the field, its work to date, and its prospects.
To listen to the interview, click here
The first volume of the Reinterpreting History series, published by Oxford University Press, received a great book review in the latest volume of the Journal of American History (volume 96, issue 1). The volume, entitled Making Sense of the Vietnam Wars: Local, National, and Transnational Perspectives is edited by Mark Philip Bradley and Marilyn B. Young.
Reviewer Patrick Hagopian from Lancaster University in Lancaster, England, says, “This volume gathers together a group of distinguished scholars to bring fresh perspectives to the question, ‘Why Vietnam?’ Their contributions address the factors that led the United States to intervene militarily in Vietnam and the reasons (other than military strategy and feats of arms) that the conflict developed and concluded as it did; they also demonstrate the liveliness of current historiographical debates. The emergence of new interpretations results in part from the availability of new Vietnamese-language archives, the declassification of documents in the United States, and the release of materials in China, Eastern Europe, and Russia…..
“…The new synthesis toward which this volume excitingly, although perhaps distantly, signals, will involve not just the integration of materials from various national archives but the tracing of the connections between the large-scale and finely observed local perspectives that its contributions explore. The cutting-edge research in this volume constitutes a crucial addition to the library of anyone interested in the histories of the Vietnam Wars.”
The full review is availabe at the History Cooperative. This volume, and the second volume in the series on Atlantic History, are available for purchase through the Center’s E-Store.