Late last year in December, Lisa Brady, the editor of the journal, Environmental History, posted a provocatively titled blog article, “Has Environmental History Lost Its Way?” In that article, she reviews a round table panel from the most recent annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in which Mark Hersey, a historian from Mississippi State University challenged the audience to consider whether or not environmental history has broadened too widely in its scope and drifted from its methodological roots.
Two years earlier, Liza Piper, a Canadian environmental historian from University of Alberta, wrote a similarly provocative article in History Compass in which she argues “that Canadian environmental historians, even as they foreground nature as an historical actor, nevertheless continue to focus their attention and orient their investigations around questions of how human social, cultural, economic, and political power reshaped both nature and human experience in the past.”
These argumentsÂ garnered lots of attention online as environmental historians shared the link to Brady’s article via online social networks and discussed its arguments. Others have now written response articles attempting to answer her question. The discussion has focused on the question of whether environmental history should emphasize materialism and the use of environment as an analytical lens or proceed as a “big tent” that incorporates a wide range of scholarship regardless of methodology.
On this episode of the podcast, Lisa Brady, Mark Hersey, and Liza Piper discuss this question and further explore whether or not environmental history has lost its way.
Please be sure to take a moment to review this podcast on our iTunes page.
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- Brady, Lisa. “Has Environmental History Lost Its Way?” Process: A Blog for American History
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- Hersey, Mark. “Slavery and the Landscape of a Dismal Empire” Ohio Valley History 13, no. 4 (Winter 2013): 77-82.
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- Piper, Liza. “Knowing Nature Through History” History Compass 11/12 (2013): 1139-1149.
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- Russell, Edmund. Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
- Walker, Brett L. “Environments of Terror: 9/11, World Trade Center Dust, and the Global Nature of New York’s Toxic Bodies” Environmental History, 20, no. 4 (October 2015): 779-795.
- Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
- Worster, Donald. The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
- “Sunday Morning” by texasradiofish
- “Gentle Romance” by Martijn de Boer (NiGiD)
- “73 Strings” by Stefan Kartenberg
Kheraj, Sean. “Episode 51: Has Environmental History Lost Its Way?” Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. 27 JanuaryÂ 2016.