In recent years, the environmental history of military conflict has grown and deepened. The second panel, “Terrains of Medieval Warfare” showed new ways that the sub-field can be expanded. The papers, covering three different continents and ambitious time scales, were thoughtful treatments of how military leaders used their surroundings to obstruct enemies, control civilian populations, and supervise conquered spaces.
The third panel was entirely modern, and as geographically diverse as the others. The panelists’ work examined ways in which technological sophistication changed states’ attempts to control animals, crops and even people, with careful analysis of the language and cultural discourse of control and government. In recent years, the environmental history of military conflict has grown and deepened.
Professors Degroot and Newfield shared useful anecdotes and advice about how to find and work effectively with scientists, a process they both described as difficult but ultimately rewarding. For example, Prof. Degroot encouraged students to submit papers to science conference and attend them to form personal connections. He noted that historians can help scientists understand how their data are meaningful in broader a social context. Prof. Newfield noted that contacting the lead authors of recent publication on a given subject is often a good way to find possible collaborators. They recommended exploring sciencedirect.com and the NSF’s REU program, which gives students the opportunity to try scientific research firsthand.
The experience of these two professors and the panelists’ research led to some thought-provoking discussions of methodology, particularly the rise of integrated STS/HS/EH (Science and Technology Studies/History of Science/Environmental History) scholarship, and the challenges (and possibilities) of combining natural proxy data with documentary evidence.
Students also took the opportunity to quiz Environmental History editor Prof. Lisa Brady about journals, publishing and her new research into the environmental history of modern warfare in the Korean Peninsula. She noted that her editorial work has reinforced her conviction that every piece of writing needs multiple revisions. For doctoral students thinking about submitting journal articles, she provided the following tips
- Read recent articles from the journal you want to publish in before sending them anything
- Lay out your argument clearly in the first two pages
- Rather than trying to fit in everything you know, choose a fascinating case backed by excellent primary sources and distill it down to its essence
- Limit historiography, focus instead on explaining the meaning, the ‘so, what?’ question
In this quick overview of our first student-run conference, we’ve tried to include details of those parts of the discussions that might be useful to fellow graduate students. Feel free to get in touch with us by email or social media if you’re interested in following up with any of the participants, or making your own conference!