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.