The Environmental History Group explores the intersections of the environment, science, technology, and economy in human history. In both content and methodology, the field of environmental history, broadly defined, intersects with the history of technology, economic history, climatology, demography, biology, the history of science and medicine, and a variety of related fields. While their research and teaching range widely in chronology, geography, and approach, the members of the Environmental History Group share a commitment to local, regional, and global approaches to the material and cultural relationships between nature and humanity and to assessing their implications for public policy.
We teach courses at the undergraduate and graduate level; we offer a Minor Graduate Field in Global Environmental History; we host invited seminars and lectures by scholars from the department, the university, and across the academy.
James Bartholomew is professor of modern Japanese history. He is currently working on a book about Japanese scientists who were candidates for the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, chemistry, and physics during the first half of the 20th century. The book analyzes the contributions of eight such scientists within the environmental and political contexts where they worked - both domestic and international. Relationships developed between Japanese scientists and their peers in Europe and the United States receive particular attention. This work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. A second book project seeks to position and clarify the place of modern science and technology in Japanese society and culture during the past two centuries. In addition to his course on the history of science, technology, and business in Japan, Bartholomew has been teaching a small group studies course on the history of modern science "outside traditional centers," focusing on parts of the world exclusive of western Europe and the USA after 1900.
Alan Beyerchen is best known for his publications on German science and technology. He also has particular interest in the relationship between the world wars of the 20th century and the environment, including the satellite imaging technologies developed during the Cold War. For six years he served on the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he is an elected Fellow of the AAAS. He is a participant in the Byrd Polar Research Center colloquia at Ohio State.
Mansel G. Blackford is especially interested in the environmental history of the American West and the Pacific, particularly how people in those regions have dealt with trade-offs between economic development and environmental preservation. His recent books on these issues are Fragile Paradise: The Impact of Tourism on Maui, 1959-2000 (Lawrence, 2001), and Pathways to the Present: U.S. Development and Its Consequences in the Pacific (Honolulu, 2007). He is currently working on the history of the global over-fishing crisis in a study tentatively titled Fishers, Fishing, and Over Fishing: American Experiences in Global Perspective, 1976-2006.
Nicholas Breyfogle is a specialist in modern Russian and environmental history, especially the human history of water. He is currently working on two projects. The first, “Baikal: The Great Lake and its People,” is an environmental history of the Lake Baikal region of Siberia from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries (examining natural disasters and earthquakes, nature protection efforts, the lake as sacred space, the scientific study of the lake, fishing, tourism, and other economic developments). The second project, “Water: A Human History,” explores from a global perspective the place of water in the human experience. Breyfogle was a participant in the CIEE summer 2009 international water history seminar in Australia, and is completing the article “Dry Days Down Under: Australia’s Drought and the World Water Crisis.”
John Brooke, a Humanities Distinguished Professor of History, has been teaching Global Environmental History since 1994, and is a consultant with the N.S.F. supported O.S.U. project on the “Global History of Health." He is the author of "Ecology," in Daniel Vickers, ed., A Companion to Colonial America (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2003), and is presently completing a book manuscript titled “A Rough Journey: Human History on a Volatile Earth,” under contract for 2010 publication with Cambridge University Press. This book will present an overview interpretation of the human condition over the past five million years integrating the recent advances in climate science, genetic and bioarcheaological studies, epidemiology, and energy-technology analysis with major questions of environmental, demographic, and economic history.
Philip Brown has recently completed a book manuscript, Ties of the Land, Joint Corporate Land Ownership in Early Modern Japan, which examines a mechanism by which Japanese villagers adapted to geographic and microclimatic variations within their villages, including amelioration of potential damage to croplands from floods and landslides. His current project, funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities/Japan-US Friendship Commission, and the Fulbright-Hays program of the U.S. Department of Education, extends this concern, focusing on a long-term study of efforts to use social and civil engineering to ameliorate flood and landslide risk over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His project combines assessment of administrative and technological efforts at national, regional and local levels, and entertains the possibility that traditional approaches were as effective as modern, post-war civil engineering techniques,
William R. Childs has written on the policy history of the conservation of oil in the United States in the 20th century. He has published articles on this topic in the Journal of Policy History and the Pacific Historical Review. Professor Childs wove together the themes of energy development, regulatory policy, technology and the environment in his 2005 book, The Texas Railroad Commission: Understanding Regulation in America to the Mid-Twentieth Century. He is currently working on a history of the interaction of natural resource planning, domestic energy policy, and the environment in the U.S. from c. 1900 to mid-century.
Matt Goldish is an historian of early modern science and religion. His first book, Judaism in the Theology of Sir Isaac Newton (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1998) examines the relationship between science, society, religion, and history in Newton’s thought. Goldish was recently interviewed about Newton’s theology for a History Channel television special. In subsequent work Goldish has written about Newton’s relationship with the Church of England, and on the ties between Millenarian and scientific mentalities in the seventeenth century. Among his current projects is an examination of the scientific and technical interests of London’s chief Sephardic rabbi in the early eighteenth century, Hakham David Nieto.
David Hoffmann is a historian of twentieth-century Russia, with a particular focus on the political, social, and cultural history of Stalinism. He is the author of Peasant Metropolis: Social Identities in Moscow, 1929-1941(Cornell University Press, 1994) and Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941 (Cornell University Press, 2003), as well as the co-editor of Russian Modernity: Politics, Knowledge, Practices (Macmillan Publishers, 2000) and the editor of Stalinism (Blackwell Publishers, 2002). He is currently completing a monograph that places Soviet social policies in a comparative context, with particular attention to international trends in welfare programs, public health, and reproductive policies.
Clark S. Larsen is an S.B.S. Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, and an adjunct member of the Department of History. He is an internationally known authority on bioarchaeology, the study of human remains from archaeological settings. His research is primarily focused on biocultural adaptation in the last 10,000 years of human evolution, with particular emphasis on the history of health and the intersection between biology and culture. He co-directs (with Simon Hillson) the study of Neolithic human remains from Çatalhöyük, Turkey, one of the earliest cities in the world. His most recent work includes Bioarchaeology: Interpreting Behavior from the Human Skeleton (Cambridge University Press, 1999), Bioarchaeology of Spanish Florida: The Impact of Colonialism (University Press of Florida, 2001), Skeletons in Our Closet: Revealing Our Past through Bioarchaeology (Princeton University Press, 2002), and Our Origins: Discovering Physical Anthropology (W.W. Norton, 2009), a leading introductory physical anthropology textbook. With Richard Steckel, Larsen is the co-director of the O.S.U. Global History of Health Project, an international collaboration involving anthropologists, archaeologists, climatologists, geologists, and historians tracking health changes since the late Paleolithic.
Chris Otter’s research focuses on the history of technology and environment, primarily in Britain and Western Europe, but also with a global focus. He is the author of The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain, 1800-1910 (Chicago, 2008), and is currently working on a book entitled The Vital State: Feeding Industrial Britain 1750-1950. This new project explores the role played by Britain in producing a ‘world food system’ characterized by global markets, energy-intensive monocultural agriculture and a diet high in beef, wheat and sugar.
Geoffrey Parker is Distinguished University Professor and Andreas Dorpalen Professor of History, and an Associate of the Mershon Center. He first became interested in the history of climate when co-editing a collection of essays on The General Crisis of the 17th century, published in 1977 (revised edition 1995), which included an essay by a solar physicist on the “Maunder Minimum,” the relative absence of sunspots that coincided with the crisis. Since then, environmental factors have featured in his teaching and research on early modern Europe, notably in his current struggle to write a global history of the 1640s, a decade that saw more cases of state breakdown, more wars, more revolts, more famines, and cooler temperatures than any other in the past 5,000 years. Preliminary results appeared in Geoffrey Parker, “Crisis and catastrophe: the global crisis of the 17th-century reconsidered,” American Historical Review 113 (2008): 1052-79.
Randy Roth has been teaching an undergraduate course on the environmental history of the United States (History 366.02) since 1993. He is interested in the environmental sciences (paleoecology, ecology, biology, climatology, toxicology, etc.) and their relationship to history.
Jennifer Siegel is an historian of modern Europe, with particular interests in great power relations and financial history. Her current research involves banking and railroads at the turn of the twentieth century. She teaches in areas relating to international security, including the history of oil.
Mytheli Sreenivas is a historian of modern South Asia, and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Women’s Studies. She developed an interest in environmental history through the course of her current project, “Counting Indians: Population and the Body Politic, 1800-1970,” which investigates the history of the idea that India is an overpopulated place. She is especially interested the relationship between demography, environmental policy, and population control.
Rick Steckel is a SBS Distinguished Professor of Economics, and an adjunct member of the Department of History. He is the author of over a hundred articles in the history of the American economy and the question of stature, health, and standard living in the global past. He has taught widely in economic history, and directs with Clark Larsen the O.S.U. Global History of Health Project, which is developing a long-term history of human health and well-being through an integrated database of skeletal remains.
360 Scientific Revolutions in Their Social Context
362 History of Technology
366.01 Global Environmental History
366.02 American Environmental History
520.01 Science and Society in Early Modern Europe
520.02 Science and Society in Modern Europe
539 Siberia in World History
560 Westward Movement in American History
561-2 History of American Science
587.02 Science, Technology, and Business in Japan
765 Topics in Environmental History
Global Environmental History (Fall, 2003)
Europe and the World in Environmental History, 1600-2000 (Spring 2009)
3XX European Environmental History
3XX Water in Human History
5XX Food in World History
5XX History of Public Health and Disease
7XX Studies in the History of Technology