This post is part two of a field trip series where Matthew writes about his visits to raw materials extraction sites and how he understands them as an environmental historian. Read part two here.
In the 1850s, Californians experienced the state’s natural environment primarily through work. In was the gold rush then and the northern Sierra Nevada foothills were overrun with miners. Although many Californians associate gold mining with human labor, the largest and most productive companies harnessed the mountain’s rivers to mine for gold. Mining companies built networks of reservoirs and canals that diverted water to hydraulic cannons which then blasted the water against mountainsides. As entire hillsides washed away, a mercury-lined sieve sitting in the center of the valley attracted gold. By the mid-1870s, a hydraulic mine at North Bloomfield, near present day Nevada City, became the largest gold mine in the state. The landscape at North Bloomfield was so scarred from the water cannons that French miners reportedly compared it to the Battle of Malakoff, a bloody episode in the Crimean War (1853-1856). Read more on the blog.
Professor Dagomar Degroot Releases New Book, "The Frigid Golden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age and the Dutch Republic, 1560-1720"
Georgetown professor Dagomar Degroot released his new book, The Frigid Golden Age (Cambridge University Press) on February 8, 2018. The book examines how the Dutch Republic flourished during a period of climactic cooling by tying broad, long-term, global change to small, short-term, local Dutch experiences. In the book, Degroot analyzes how climate affected commerce, conflict, and culture in the Dutch Republic from the sixteenth to eighteenth century.
For a short summary of the ideas in Degroot's book see his recent article in the Washington Post, "Some places flourished in the Little Ice Age. There are lessons for us now."
Degroot is currently working on two more books, one that extends the ideas of The Frigid Golden Age through space and time and another that examines the environmental change in outer space. Click here for more information on his past and present projects. He also teaches about these topics at Georgetown. To see some of his course syllabi, click here.
Last fall, I designed and taught a course called The Global Environmental History of the Cold War. Throughout the semester, the students and I discussed the many ways that the bipolar conflict and the environment interacted between 1946 and 1989, as well as the various consequences of the Cold War that stretched beyond this temporal boundary. We covered topics ranging from the nuclear fuel cycle and the arms race, to dam building and defoliants associated with Cold War development theory and proxy wars. Read more on the blog.
The members of the American Historical Association have elected Georgetown University Professor John McNeill as the next AHA president, in results announced last week. In his candidate statement, Prof. McNeill declared his readiness to assume the responsibilities of the office: "My years as a vice-president taught me that AHA presidents rarely get to choose their agenda, but must react, sometimes overnight, to unforeseen issues. The AHA staff is experienced and skilled, but given the challenges ahead will benefit from all help AHA presidents can offer. If elected, I will treat the presidency as my full-time job. I owe much to the historical profession. It deserves at least that much in return." Prof. McNeill was formerly president of the American Society for Environmental History from 2011-13, and one of three AHA vice presidents from 2012-15.
Prof. McNeill's monographs include The Mountains of the Mediterranean World (Cambridge University Press, 1992), Something New Under the Sun (Norton, 2000), The Human Web, co-authored with his father and former AHA President William H. McNeill (Norton, 2003), Mosquito Empires (Cambridge University Press, 2010), and most recently The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945, with Peter Engelke (Harvard University Press, 2016).
The Department of History at Georgetown University invites paper proposals from graduate students for a one-day conference on water-related environmental histories. The conference seeks to bring together students who share common research interests in water and the environment. The conference aims to consider water-based histories in the broadest sense, welcoming proposals ranging from irrigation to ocean basins, anywhere in the world and at any time period. Submissions are welcome from students working in any discipline, so long as their work involves change over time, humans, and water. Accepted proposals will be grouped into three moderated panels, each followed by a roundtable discussion between presenters, commentators, and the audience. The conference aims to serve as an intensive training session for participating students to present and receive feedback on their ongoing work (e.g. dissertation chapters and journal articles) from senior scholars and faculty members.
Application Process and Deadlines
Interested students should submit an abstract (up to 300 words) along with a brief curriculum vitae to Matthew Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) by June 30, 2016. Successful applicants will be notified by early July and asked to submit a full version of their papers (between ten and thirty pages) for pre-circulation to conference attendees and commentators by September 23.
Georgetown University will cover the costs of hotel accommodation (two nights) for admitted applicants for the duration of the conference. Attendees are expected to cover their own transportation and other travel related expenses. However, admitted students can choose to substitute their accommodation coverage for a $200 reimbursement towards transportation costs.
Photo: Ganges River Delta, September 5, 2008 © National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Georgetown was out in force at this year's conference of the American Society for Environmental History in Chicago. Click here for reflections from Georgetown environmental historians Dagomar Degroot, Robynne Mellor, and Jackson Perry.
This week, several Georgetown scholars and graduates will speak at the annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History (March 29-April 2) in Chicago, Illinois.
Thursday, 30 March, 8:30-10 a.m.
In the first post in a new series on the uses of environmental history, the blog of the Rachel Carson Center has published Prof. John R. McNeill's reflections on the potential usefulness of environmental history beyond the satisfaction of academic curiosity. The series offers adaptations of presentations made at Renmin University, Beijing, for the new Journal for Ecological History of Renmin's Center for Ecological History. "Environmental historians do not need to become more useful and practical. We should do so if we want to," McNeill writes. McNeill also describes his experience offering his knowledge of mosquito-borne diseases in the Caribbean to a U.S. Congressional briefing on the Zika virus in September 2016. Shortly after that briefing, Congress voted to approve $1.1 billion for Zika control efforts. For his answer to his own question, 'Did we actually have any impact?", read his full post on the RCC blog.
Professor Dagomar Degroot was recently interviewed for the Georgetown university homepage. Degroot discusses his forthcoming book on the resilience of the Dutch in the face of premodern climate change, and then explains one of his new projects on the environmental history of conflict and climate change in the high Arctic.
To read the interview, click here.
José Pons, a first-year PhD student in the Department of History, has coauthored a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The paper provides a detailed statistical analysis of waste management across the United States. Click here for more.