A old geographer that I know once asked me, “Isn’t environmental history just historical geography?” and then we had a long talk about methodology, the agency of non-human actors, and interdisciplinary research in general. I think I convinced him that EH is a field in its own right, though it may simply have been a case of my dad letting me win an argument. In any case, I’m absolutely convinced that maps are a very important part of any presentation of historical research, and I’ve made a few attempts to pick up GIS skills at Georgetown.
Professor Dagomar Degroot interviewed by PhD Candidate Robynne Mellor on the Climate History Podcast
As part of HistoricalClimatology.com's Climate History podcast, PhD candidate Robynne Mellor sat down with Professor Dagomar Degroot to discuss his new book, The Frigid Golden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560-1720. Though Degroot, who is the director of Historical Climatology, usually conducts the interviews, in this episode, he agrees to sit on the other side of the mic as the interviewee.
In the podcast, episode eight of the series, Degroot and Mellor talk about a range of topics including the main themes of the book, the process of writing and publishing, and how US and Canadian higher education compare.
The podcast will be of interest not only to scholars of climate change and the Dutch Republic, but also to those who are about to embark on a career in environmental history, as Degroot answers all of questions Mellor has about the field as she reaches the final stages of her doctorate.
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 one here.
On March 15, 1910, the earth thundered underneath a crew of Union Oil geologists who were drilling for petroleum in a dusty patch of semi-arid desert and chaparral, a shrubland plant, on the southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley. The Lakeview No. 1 derrick rumbled and a huge column of oil and sand twenty-feet wide and two-hundred-feet tall shot into the air.
The geologists had struck oil. For the next eight months, the Lakeview No. 1 gusher spewed oil uncontrolled, coating the surrounding countryside in petroleum and creating a huge lake of oil and sand at the derrick’s base that soon swallowed the derrick and drilling equipment. Workers eventually contained the lake using sandbags, but for ten more months oil continued to pour out of the well. Very little of the oil was saved and most evaporated or seeped into the ground. On September 10, 1911, the bottom of the crater caved in and the well ceased gushing oil. Workers have since filled in the crater and erected a plaque to mark the site. Read more on the blog.
Co-directors Dr. Dagomar Degroot and Dr. Bathsheba Demuth have launched their "Tipping Points Project." The project includes an interactive map where visitors can click on marked locations and read in-depth, mostly undergraduate-written descriptions of past, present, and future impacts of climate change.
The articles linked to the map give information about the impacts of these shifts for local environments and populations. The directors hope their project "turns climate change from an abstraction to a tangible force in people's lives."
Each write-up explains how the authors reached their conclusions and what information they used to do so. In addition, the website provides guests with the tools authors used in order for visitors to understand how climate change might impact them. Through transparency and a push for participation, the project helps promote accessibility to what often seems like a large and incomprehensible topic.
"Tipping Points Project" has already sponsored one successful and informative event at Georgetown, "The Arctic: Past, Present, and Future," with plans for more in the future.
To learn more about the project, discover great research tools, read some of the fantastic articles, visit the website here.
Skies raining blood, clouds catching fire, and beasts running amok—a surreal mix of fact and fantasy, the kind of which only a malnourished graduate student could conjure up before drifting off to sleep in a cold, dim library.
The Ottoman scholar Katib Çelebi (d. 1657) would beg to differ. The setting for these disturbing images, he reported in his chronicle Fezleke, was Hungary in late June 1619, soon after the breakout of Europe’s Thirty Years’ War. The story is loaded with enigmatic symbolism that I dare not explain, at least not today. Below is a rough translation of the Ottoman text based on the version found in Mustafa Naʿima’s (d. 1716) chronicle, whose prose in this passage is a bit clearer than Çelebi’s. Read more on the blog.
This April will be a busy month for environmental history at Georgetown with some really exciting upcoming events. The workshops and discussions below cover large stretches of time, from the Medieval period through to the future, and various topics, from disease, to teaching, to climate change. See below for details, and if you are in the DC area and interested in environmental history, please join us.
April 4, 12:00 - 5:30 pm, 391 Regents Hall, Georgetown University
Pathogens and Climates in Motion: Multidisciplinarity Perspectives on Disease in Late Antiquity
A workshop sponsored by the Georgetown Environmental Initiative & Medieval Studies Program. The workshop hopes to untangle disease-climate interaction in the distant past. It will be an interdisciplinary event, with disease ecologists, dendro-climatologists, palaeo-genomicists and historians. Click here for full schedule. Please contact Timothy Newfield if attending.
April 11, 1:00 pm, 450 Intercultural Center, Georgetown University
Teaching Environmental History: Insights from a Trailblazer
Richard Hoffman (Professor Emeritus, York University)
Dr. Richard Hoffman will discuss a lifetime of teaching and studying the environmental history of the pre-modern world. He is a pioneer in the scholarship of medieval and aquatic environmental histories, and his recent book, An Environmental History of Medieval Europe, is a landmark in his field. Dr. Timothy Newfield and Dr. Dagomar Degroot will begin the event by asking Dr. Hoffman some big questions about his discipline, and then will open it up to questions from anyone else is the room.
April 18, 1:00 - 3:30 pm, CCAS Boardroom, Intercultural Center, Georgetown University
The Arctic: Past, Present, Future
Speakers: Dagomar Degroot (Georgetown University), Bathsheba Demuth (Brown Univerity), Matthew Druckenmiller (National Snow and Ice Data Center)
Dr. Dagomar Degroot will begin by offering case studies on the environmental history of the early modern Arctic. Dr. Bathsheba Demuth will then introduce her work on the environmental history of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Arctic. Finally, Dr. Matthew Druckenmiller will explain how the Arctic is changing today, project how it might change in our imminent future, and explain what it all means for communities in the far north. This should be a fun, thoroughly interdisciplinary event that offers fresh perspectives on a unique and fast-disappearing environment.
Georgetown Environmental History scholars Faisal Husain and Meredith Denning successfully defended their dissertations this month.
Faisal's dissertation, “The Tigris-Euphrates Basin Under Early Modern Ottoman Rule, c. 1534-1830” examines the establishment of a unified Ottoman imperial regime over the Tigris and Euphrates and the consequences of this political transition on the state, streamside communities, and the environment.
Meredith's research focuses on transboundary water management and her dissertation, "Connections and Consensus: Changing Goals for Transnational Water Management on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, 1900-1972" examines how the United States and Canada cooperated to transformed the Great Lakes during the twentieth century.
John McNeill was the primary advisor for both projects.
Congratulations Faisal and Meredith!
The modern history of the ‘discovery’ of Australia typically reads as a tale of the wider world coming to the island continent, in such diverse forms as European colonists and prisoners, rabbits, California redwoods, infectious diseases, and common law. Less emphasized in this tale is the Australian contribution to the history of other parts of the world. For environmental historians and historians of science in particular, there is no better place to understand that contribution than the library of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. Read more on the blog.
This week, several Georgetown environmental history scholars, both current and former, are participating in the annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History (March 14-18) in Riverside, California.
Matthew Johnson, Exhibit Hall C and D, “Black Gold of Paradise: Negotiating Oil Pollution in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 1966-2012.”
Thursday, March 15
10:30 am-12:00 pm, Room MR 8 - John McNeill (chair), Panel 2-H: The Freedom of the Hills? Nature and Empire in Upland Frontiers.
10:30 am-12:00 pm, Room RC E (upper level) - Meredith McKittrick, "Aquatic Dreams: Invisible and Imagined Water in Colonial South West Africa," Panel 2-E: Hidden Histories of Hidden Water: Groundwa- ter Resources and Power.
1:30 pm-3:00 pm, Room RC E (upper level) - John McNeill (chair), Panel 3-E: Acclimating Bodies: The Ecology of Yellow Fever Transmission in the Nineteenth-Century Greater Caribbean.
1:30 pm-3:00 pm, Room MR 9 - Robynne Mellor, "The Aboveground Ecology of an Underground Mine: A Comparison of Uranium Tailings and their Treatment in the U.S. Desert, Soviet Steppe, and Canadian Shield," Panel 3-E: Mined Earth: Transnational Environmental Histories of Extraction.
Friday, March 16
8:30 am-10:00 am, Room MR 10 - Dagomar Degroot (chair), Panel 5-J: New Perspectives on Climate and History in the Little Ice Age.
8:30 am-10:00 am, Room RC D (upper level) - Tait Keller - "Fallen Trees: Forests and Reshaping the Memory of the First World War," Panel 5-D: Forest Fights: Trees, Memory, and Identity in India, North America, and Poland.
10:30 am-12:00 pm, Room RC F (upper level) - Matthew Johnson, Lightning Session 6-F: Three-Minute Thesis Slam.
Saturday, March 17
10:30 am-12:00 pm, Room RC F (upper level) - Dagomar Degroot,
"Bowhead Whale Hunting in a Cooling Arctic, 1610-1640," and Faisal Husain, "Buffalo Herding in the Tigris-Euphrates Marshes, 1534-1590," Panel 8-F: The Animal Kingdom and Aquatic Ecosystems in the Early Modern World.
For the full conference program, click here.
Photo source: Wikipedia.
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.