Historians Flashcards Preview

Part II | HAP - Environmental History > Historians > Flashcards

Flashcards in Historians Deck (47):

Donald J. Hughes

Summarise the key arguments presented by Donald Hughes

  • Modern African landscapes are the result of the interaction between human activity and natural change processes.
  • Early misreading of Africa's landscapes, argues McCann, culminated in misdirected conservation policies that sought 'to freeze the landscape's dynamism and achieve a scene that conforms to prevailing ideas about Africa's "natural" state'.
  • McCann also blames the global media for perpetuating stereotypic images of Africa's environmental crises as a function of overpopulation and mismanagement, citing footage from the I98os documentary film The Desert Doesn't Bloom Here Anymore as an example.


Joachim Radkau (Nature and Power, 2008)

Summarise the key arguments presented by Joachim Radkau

Joachim Radkau (Nature and Power, 2008)

  • One of first to produce 'world history'

  • Changing relationship between humanity and nature is a key to understanding world history. All societies have grappled with sustainability issues. 

    • Most environmental narratives fall into one of two categories 

      i) society either destroys its environment OR

      ii) manages to survive my transforming its environment 

  • Globalisation is the "deepest rupture in the history of the environment".


Richard White - The Organic Machine (1995)

Summarise the key arguments presented by Richard White

  • Focused on the Columbia, from 18th Century to the present.
  • ‘We cannot understand human history without natural history and we cannot understand natural history without human history.’

  • ‘Nature, at once a cultural construct and a set of actual things outside of us and not fully constrained by our constructions, needs to be put into human history’ (R. White)

  • Beyond accounting for the river's utility by Amerindians, it also accounts for Emersonian and Mumfordian philosophies in practice.


Dipesh Chakrabarty

  • Wrongly associated with seeing humans as a geological force. This phrase belongs to Fairfield Osborn - Our Plundered Planet.


James McCann - Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land 

Summarise the key arguments presented by James McCann


Carolyn Merchant

Summarise the key arguments presented by Carolyn Merchant

  • Vitalism was dismantled by Bacon, who sought to 'vex' nature. Nature conceived in feminine terms. 
  • In a subsistence modes of production such as those of native peoples, women's impact on nature is immediate and direct. In gathering hunting-fishing economies, collect and process plants, small animals, birds eggs, and shellfish and fabricated tools, baskets, mats, slings, and clothing, whilst men hunt.
  • A sensitivity to gender and enriches environment and history. Native Americans, For instance, Construed the natural world as animated and created by spirits and gods. Origin myths included tales of mother Earth and for the sky, grandmother woodchucks and Coyote tricksters, corn mothers and tree spirits.  Similar myths focused on planting, harvesting, and firstfruits rituals amongst Native Americans and in such old world cultures as those in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece, which symbolised nature as a mother goddess.

  • Mrs Lovell White - destruction of earth has been caused by “men whose souls are gang-saws”

  • Coined the term ‘ecological revolution’ 


Alfred Crosby

Summarise the key arguments presented by Alfred Crosby

  • Traditional env. his.
  • Sees origins of env. his. in the 1960s countercultural movements.

  • Famed for:

    • Columbian Exchange (1972) - the major reason for European conqueror success was in inadvertently bringing communicable diseases which the Europeans had resistance to, but ‘virgin’ populations were susceptible to. Europeans found that they conquered Natives easily, but were left with no labour force thereafter

    • Ecological Imperialism (1986) - European imperial success depended on disease pathogens and food. Critics – relocated historical agency and responsibility from humans to wheat 


Donna Haraway

Summarise the key arguments presented by Donna Haraway

one of the first scholars to challenge the culture-matter or technology-nature divide -> 1985 essay that modern humans are best understood as “cyborgs” who literally and symbolically incorporate the technological into their bodily and mental existence, thus uniting the material and the discursive. 


J.R. McNeill

Summarise the key arguments presented by J.R. McNeill

  • Big name!
  • Issues facing EH: Scale - respects no national boundaries, often seen as declensionist; agency disappears (Worster's Dust Bowl)
  • Soil as the real substrate of human affairs 

  •  Mosquito Empires - Focused on mosquito-borne diseases in New World. 

  • ‘Something New Under the Sun’ 2000 - human impact on biosphere over past century. Engines of change: population, urbanisation, technology, ideas and politics driving human efforts.


John F. Richards

Summarise the key arguments presented by John F. Richards

The Unending Frontier (2003) resource extraction, markets and states organised resource use on a global scale.


Elizbeth D. Blum

Summarise the key arguments presented by Elizabeth D. Blum

Linking American Women's History and Environmental History: A Preliminary Historiography

  • historical literature describing women's involvement in the early environmental movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has been somewhat incidental to both women's history and environmental history. Generally, the environmental history that mentions women's involvement makes little effort to analyze their activism or to tie their environmental attitudes to other women's literature.
  • A lack of biographies of prominent women environmentalists parallels the dearth of gendered analysis in the field. Considers the position of Ellen Swallow Richards to substantiate.


José Padua

Summarise the key arguments presented by José Padua

  • Commentator on Brazil and sustainability in the 18th century 
    • Discussing history, detailed change in:

      1. The idea that human action can have a substantial impact on the natural world.

      2. The revolution in the chronological understanding of the world

      3. The view of nature as history - I.e. As a process of construction and reconstruction over time.



James Beattie

Summarise the key arguments presented by James Beattie

Colonial anxiety emerged from the defiance of exotic lands to operate according to European normative model of the environment. In particular, scientists and medics were the major proponents of environmental concern and regulation, with anti-colonial sentiment emerging from their ranks.

"We live, in short, in a time of increasing environmental anxiety whose problems, I would contend, originate in part in the experience of empire."


Annales School: Fernand Braudel

Summarise the key arguments presented by Fernand Braudel of the Annales School

  • 1949 - The Mediterranean and Mediterranean World. Braudel challenged prevailing notions of empire, economic exchange, and nature; by setting human history in a geographical setting rather than a nation state.

    • First chapter of volume one begins “Mountains Come First”

      Believed changes in climate are often the result of landscape alterations by humans. He connected drying climate with “large scale deforestation’.

  • The environment frames a stage and limits the set of possibilities but does not provide the drama. 
  • Distinguishes between three different 

    • Nature and climate, almost immobile
    • Slow temporality of economic and social facts
    • Rapid temporality of events – battles, diplomacy, political life


Annales SchoolLucien Febvre

Summarise the key arguments presented by Lucien Febvre of the Annales School

Febvre - Classic 1925 - ‘Geographical Introduction to History’ : Insists that historians should recognise the importance of the environment in their field. Most important texts leading to the recognition of environmental history. 

  • Argues that the natural environment has an important relationship to human affairs. At the same time, he argues against environmental determinism. 
  • While Febvre insisted on the importance of the environment, he maintained that it did no more than establish “possibilities” for societies.

  • Febvre rejects racialist interpretations, but falls into stereotypes that are considered unacceptable today


Annales School: Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie

Summarise the key arguments presented by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie of the Annales School

  • (1972) ‘Times of Feast, Times of Famine’ - using tree rings, dates of grape harvests,  and depictions of the advances and retreats of glaciers in the Alps, Ladurie detailed that climate is far from constant in history - pointing to events like the Little Ice Age.
  • Ladurie’s definition of the field as embracing climate, epidemics, natural disasters, population explosion, urbanisation, pollution, industrial overconsumption


William Cronon

Summarise the key arguments presented by William Cronon

 ‘current env problems almost always have historical analogues from which we have much to learn. Nation-states are neither self-contained nor equal units when it comes to dealing with the global environment.'

Flexibility of EH. 1979 accounts on the dust bowl:

Bonnifield -> optimistic, power of people to enact change

Worster -> inevitable outcome of human culture, one of the three worst ecological blunders in history 


Jared Diamond

Summarise the key arguments presented by Jared Diamond

  • Macrohistory ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’: Western omnipotence from the rich natural gifts offered by the Eurasian continent: easily domesticated grains and animals unmatched by any other region. Undercuts Western claims of racial superiority, undermines conventional anthropocentric claims to human greatness.
    • Eurasians did not knowingly “invent” agriculture, Diamond argues, nor did they consciously set out to domesticate cows, sheep, and other animals. Largely accidental and depended heavily on the inherent potential of certain plants and animals to become domesticated.
  • McNeill finds convincing, though some saw as deterministic.
  • Response: ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’. Diamond asks a further question: why do societies choose to fail or succeed? Five categories: climate change, hostile neighbors, trade partners, environmental problems, and responses thereafter.


Robert Marks

Summarise the key arguments presented by Robert Marks

 ‘Tigers, Rice, Silk and Silt’ 1998 - shows how expansion of rice cultivation - in part as an imperial policy aimed at meeting the needs of a growing population - and marketing changes, including silk exports, transformed the landscape of a region of South China. By 1850, only 10% of area remained forested. Deforestation occurred faster than population growth as peasant farmers would burn forests to remove the habitat of snakes, tigers and bandits. Actively introduced crops from the New World.


Tony Wrigley

Summarise the key arguments presented by Tony Wrigley

World was subject to the ‘photosynthetic constraint’ of an ‘organic economy’, dependent on plants for the raw materials of life and industry


Ian Gordon

Summarise the key arguments presented by Ian Gordon

Geographers writing a history: Ian Gordon (Changing the Face of the Earth - technical book on varying rates of env. Change. Alongside Environmental History - scientific basis of historical study.)


Jane Bennett

Summarise the key arguments presented by Jane Bennett

We derive much of what we consider to be our essential humanity from the power of material things around us through “thing-power.” Coal, is not just a passive raw material that union members or democratic states mine and process but itself an inseparable part of the worker solidarity and democratic practices that we often mistakenly viewed as largely abstract ideas or entirely sociocultural phenomena. Social power is a type of thing-power, which can in turn often be a form of physical energy.


Immanuel Wallerstein 

Summarise the key arguments presented by Immanuel Wallerstein 

Wallerstein ‘world-system’ approach aimed at explaining historical processes over the longue durée


Oliver A. Houck

Summarise the key arguments presented by Oliver Houck

‘Taking Back Eden’ - eight case studies of environmental law.

8 Global Cases:

  • The use of King Mountain on the Hudson for a power plant. Lloyd Garrison
  • The destruction of cedar trees on the way to the Shinto shrine in Tokugawa Ieyasu for road widening during the Tokyo Olympic Games. Kenzo Shiraizi.
  • Logging in the remnants of the Philippines rainforests. Antonio Oposa.
  • Flooding of the northern Quebec Province, homeland to the Cree nation. James O’Reilly
  • Erosion on the Taj Mahal resultant of pollution. Mahesh Mehta.
  • Infringement of protected forests in Russia. Tamara Zlotnikova.
  • Flooding of historic towns in Greece to permit cotton growth in Thessaly. Michael Decleris.
  • Deforestation in southernmost Chile, Tierra del Fuego. Adrianna Hoffman.

In each case, individual citizens took legal action to protect the environmental amenity involved. Little legal precedent existed - had to establish their right to appear before the courts at all on behalf of themselves, nature, the rights of citizens, or future generations. Used existing law creatively to sway judges.

Written by a lawyer.


Gregory D. Smithers

Summarise the key arguments presented by Gregory D. Smithers

‘Beyond the ‘Ecological Indian’: Environmental Politics and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Modern North America,’ - expands on the notion of the ecological Indian,


Richard Grove

Summarise the key arguments presented by Richard Grove

  • 1995 - 'Green Imperialism’, shows that scientists, including physicians, sent out by colonial powers as early as the seventeenth century, noticed environmental changes on oceanic islands and in India and South Africa, changes so rapid that they could be chronicled within the span of a human life. They evidenced human-induced deforestation, which induced anxiety surrounding the colonial project.
  • Found earlier scientists had discovered desiccation theory - the idea that deforestation causes the climate to dry out and also the corollary, that reforestation restores lost rainfall.


Naomi Klein

Summarise the key arguments presented by Naomi Klein

Wrote 2012 polemic, This Changes Everything

The goal should be to get the cheapest products to the consumer so that the green transition can happen as quickly as possible. The biggest problem with these arguments is that the notion there is any free market in energy to be protected from distortion. Not only do fossil fuel companies receive $775bn-$1tn in annual global subsidies, but they pay nothing for the privilege of treating our shared atmosphere as a free waste dump.

Blames China - suppressed rights, 24/7 production, 10% growth p.a., expansive developments as 'free traders dream... and climate nightmare.'


Donald Worster

Summarise the key arguments presented by Donald Worster

The biggest name.

  • Identifies three strands of EH work: ‘nature itself’ ecological viewpoint, exploring socio-economic interactions between humans and nature, analysing mental interactions eg. ways of thinking about nature.
  • To The Ends of the Earth, 1988, summed up his scholarly generation’s definition of environmental history as “the interactions people have had with nature in past times.”

  • EH “is about as interdisciplinary as intellectual pursuits can get.” 

  • Forceful in challenging env historians to embrace transnational themes (national borders impose artificial barriers that limit the scope of historical analysis 1982 essay “World without Borders”)


Paul Warde

Summarise the key arguments presented by Paul Warde

  • Warde - Merchant is wrong - her understanding of mechanistic thinking is not accurate for 17th c 
  • Expert on wood shortage.
  • Invention of sustainability
  • 1948 and modern environmentalism


Timothy Mitchell

Summarise the key arguments presented by Timothy Mitchell

  • coal gave working-class people and their unions new and remarkable power. Because it is bulky and requires many men to move it around, coal was a catalyst for democracy and progress. Western elites turned to oil partly because they wanted to regain control over energy supplies. The oil companies developed a complex system for restricting supply to maximise profits.

  • In the Middle East, rival companies battled for control and began to define their interests as strategic, against a backdrop of political turmoil. As empires crumbled, democratic impulses were overwhelmed by a new doctrine of self-determination which enabled foreign companies to retain control.

  • The “energy crisis” of 1973-4 was no such thing: a group of Arab states cut the oil supply in protest at US support for Israel, a decision unconnected to a rise in oil taxes. The cold war provided the justification for vast spending on weapons, as arms as well as oil companies became dependent on alliances in the Middle East. Our modern conception of “the economy” is built upon what once appeared to be an infinite quantity of oil.


Bruce Rich

Summarise the key arguments presented by Bruce Rich

  • Mortgaging the Earth
  • World Bank in driving development, was guilty of environmental destruction.
  • By late 1990, 150,000 square kilometers were deforested in a gigantic region in the Greater Carajas Program. More than three-quarters of this destruction took place on either side of a 780-kilometer railway financed by the World Bank in 1982. The Bank lent $304. 5 million to the Brazilian state mining company Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) to build the railroad from the world’s largest reserves of high-grade iron ore to the sea. 

  • August 1987, 29 environmental and indigenous rights organizations sent a letter to World Bank President Barber Conable calling upon the Bank to use its influence to halt the charcoal-fueled industrial schemes. The Bank's response appeared to express concern but impotence: the World Bank was worried about the problem, the Bank's country director for Brazil replied, but he insisted that it had no control over the licensing of the huge smelting projects.

  • Between 1976 and 1986, the Bank lent $360 million to support the most ambitious resettlement project on earth – Indonesia Transmigration. Move millions of poor Indonesians from the country’s densely populated inner islands – Java, Lombok, Bali, and Madura – to the outer islands – principally Kalimantan (Borneo), Irian Jaya (Indonesian New Guinea) and Sumatra.

  • Indonesia’s outer island contain 10% of the world’s remaining rainforests and are inhabited mainly by non-Javanese indigenous tribes. 


Astrid Kander

Summarise the key arguments presented by Astrid Kander

While the human population had for the first time advanced to a full billion by the early nineteenth century, less than two hundred years later there are seven times more of us. Yet this sevenfold advance pales beside the increase in our production, which has risen more than seventy-fold in the same period.


Samuel P. Hays

Summarise the key arguments presented by Samuel P. Hays

Samuel Hays wrote about US conservation politics as early as the 1950s Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency 1890-1920 (1959). 


Clarence Glacken

Summarise the key arguments presented by Clarence Glacken

Intellectual historian.

 ’Traces on the Rhodian Shore’ - examines three major environmental ideas in Western literature from ancient times to the eighteenth century: (I) that the cosmos was designed, (ii) environment shapes humans, (iii) humans alter the environment where they live.


Corey Ross

Summarise the key arguments presented by Corey Ross

On globalisation. 


In short, the world has been witnessing a process of ecological imperialism in which powerful countries and organizations have tapped huge resource subsidies in other parts of the world as a means of overcoming the ecological limits that their own territories place on economic growth and commercial activity.


Brett L. Walker

Summarise the key arguments presented by Brett L. Walker

On animal history. The hallmark of the human relationship with other animals is our need to separate ourselves from them, lest they “hold us down.” Wild, toothy animals deny us our right to heavenly immortality by holding us down; they deny us our divine origin myths by holding us down. Crocodiles and other predators force us to confront our shared fleshy nature with other organisms on Earth, which flies in the face of our deepest cultural myths of monotheistic transcendence and sacred difference.


David Quammen

Summarise the key arguments presented by David Quammen

Monster of God, has written that “For as long as Homo sapiens has been sapient—for much longer if you count the evolutionary wisdom stored in our genes—alpha predators have kept us acutely aware of our membership within the natural world. They’ve done it by reminding us that to them we’re just another flavour of meat.


Kathleen Kete

Summarise the key arguments presented by Kathleen Kete

  • Humans have recrafted the bodies of dogs to advertise class difference and display other social signals, sculpting them, through selective breeding, to play into human social needs as they shift over historical time. In The Beast in the Boudoir, Kathleen Kete observes, “When bourgeois people spoke of their pets, as they loquaciously did, they pointedly spoke also of their times, and above all else of themselves.”
  • “bourgeois dog” was the carefully sculpted product of a Parisian fantasy, whereas “working-class” dogs and “Oriental” dogs “led unstructured, more natural, less cultured lives.”


Diana K. Davis

Summarise the key arguments presented by Diana K. Davis

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s brought a heightened level of worry to existing thinking about deserts. Whereas in the United States, the new conservationist ideology condemned modern agricultural techniques and a rapacious view of an “unending frontier” in American thought, the effect of Dust Bowl thinking in much of the rest of the world was different.

In places such as the drylands of Africa and Asia, American prescriptions for soil conservation were taken as gospel and applied to heterogeneous environments, where they frequently criminalized local land use practices while introducing ecologically inappropriate techniques that often caused more harm than good.


Warren Dean

Summarise the key arguments presented by Warren Dean

With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest (1995), Warren Dean traces the forest’s transformation from the time of initial human settlement to the late twentieth century.


Sara B. Pritchard

Summarise the key arguments presented by Sara B. Pritchard

Environment and technology.

Current debates over genetically modified organisms, the biotech industry, global climate change, the Keystone XL pipeline, nuclear energy, the privatisation of water, e-waste, and the Anthropocene, among other issues, demand historical reflection on the political stakes of technology and the environment in the modern world; on how and why historical actors and scholarly analysts have thought about nature and technology in the ways that they have; and on what it means, historically and analytically, to move to combine them, both physically and discursively.

Environmental historians and historians of technology have shared a tendency to each “black box” the cores of the other specialisation: technology, in the case of environmental history; and nonhuman nature, in the case of technology studies.

Technological artefacts and technical change therefore had vast, ambiguous implications for nonhuman nature and humans’ knowledge of it, far beyond simplistic characterisations as either powerful tools of progress or destructive agents of decline. disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and most recently Fukushima Daiichi, but these brief cases point to the complex ways in which ecology and the nuclear age were entangled. 


Connie Y. Chiang

Summarise the key arguments presented by Connie Y. Chiang

Environmental changes, from industrialisation and the creation of parks to deforestation and devastating hurricanes, had profound social implications for certain racial and ethnic groups. They often lived in polluted neighbourhoods, on low-lying land prone to flooding, or along the outskirts of conservation areas, and their rights to the pleasures and economic benefits of the natural world were routinely circumscribed.



Mark Fiege

Summarise the key arguments presented by Mark Fiege

Brown v. Board of Education had environmental component. Environmental history of the colour line in Topeka -> African American neighbourhoods were relegated to low-lying areas by the Kansas River and the Shunganunga Creek. Linda Brown and her family lived on the fringes of these enclaves, near the river and surrounded by industry. Rather than attend a white school close to her home, she had to walk along the railroad tracks to catch a bus to a black school. Her lawsuit to end school segregation, then, was part of a longer history in which the physical landscape of the city reinforced social inequalities. “The color line…was more than just a legal abstraction; it was a material practice grounded in the social experience of landscape and its physical properties"


Kimberly K. Smith - African American Environmental Thought - 2007

Summarise the key arguments presented by Kimberly K. Smith

"One might think that 250 years of slavery would have left black Americans permanently alienated from the American landscape…Locked in a struggle for social justice, what interest could they have in the claims of nature?”

Analyses leading black thinkers like Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, and Booker T. Washington -> "rich tradition of black environmental thought,” dating back to abolitionism, that informed the contemporary environmental justice movement.


Erin Brockovich

Mainstream, public environmentalist.

Identified groundwater contamination by hexavalent chromium in the southern California town of Hinkley. Versus Pacific Gas and Electric, who used HC to prevent corrosion to a cooling tower, and disposed of wastewater in unlined which percolated into the groundwater, affecting an area near the plant approximately 2 by 1 mile (3.2 by 1.6 km).

The case was settled in 1996 for US$333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history. 



What does Timothy LeCain propose?

Neo-materialist theory - believed distinct in two principal ways: first, for its focus on the way human thought and culture are intimately embedded in their bodies and the material environment; and, second, for its emphasis on the creative powers and independent nature of that material environment.