Faculty: Environment, Health, Technology, and Science

Coordinating faculty:

Nicholas Breyfogle, John Brooke, Christopher Otter

Affiliated Faculty:

Stanley E. Blake is a historian of modern Brazil. His research focuses on the social, cultural and political history of northeastern Brazil in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His first book, The Invention of the Nordestino: Race, Region and the State, 1850-1945 examines the origins and development of northeastern regional identity in Brazil, focusing on the ways in which science, medicine, public health and eugenics were used to construct an understanding of the region and its peoples. Future research plans include article-length pieces on attempts to control and eradicate hookworm disease, yellow fever and malaria in Northeastern Brazil.

Nicholas Breyfogle  is a specialist in environmental and water history globally, especially in Russia/Soviet Union. He is the author/editor of five volumes, with four more forthcoming. These include an environmental history of the world’s oldest and deepest lake, Lake Baikal, and edited works on Russian/Soviet environmental history, American environmental history in World War II, and global, comparative water history. For the last ten years he has been Editor of the online magazine, Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective http://origins.osu.edu. He teaches courses on the history of water and plans future research on “water and war” and “a human history of water.” Breyfogle also serves on the Leadership Team of the Sustainable and Resilient Economy initiative at Ohio State. 

John Brooke has been teaching Global Environmental History since 1994. He is the author of Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey (Cambridge University Press, 2014), presenting 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. Recently he has published essays on epigenetics, the Anthropocene, Mediterranean climate in Antiquity, and “environmental determinism” in the American Historical Review, Eighteenth Century Studies, Journal Interdisciplinary History, and Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science. As the director of the Center for Historical Research, he co-chaired the 2011-2013 CHR Program in Health, Disease, and Environment in World History. 

Philip Brown is a specialist in early modern and modern Japanese history who teaches courses on the history of science, technology, medicine and the environment in pre-modern and modern East Asia and Japan.  His current research focuses on Japan's efforts to ameliorate the impact of floods over the 18th to early 21st centuries, a period that covers three very different political regimes. In addition to many articles on Japan's environment and technology, his monograph, Cultivating Commons: Joint Ownership of Arable Land in Early Modern Japan (University of Hawai'i Press), deals with village efforts to address natural hazard risk and microclimatic variation in agriculture.  He has co-edited with Bruce Batten Environment and Society in Japan (Oregon State University Press) and with David Wittner, Science, Technology and Medicine in the Modern Japanese Empire (Routledge).  He currently serves as an elected board member of the East Asian Environmental History Association.  He is a team member of a multi-million dollar five year Japanese project assessing the social response of pre-modern Japanese society to climate change.

Alice L. Conklin, an historian of modern France and its empire. She has recently published In the Museum of Man: Race, Anthropology and Empire in France, 1850-1950 (Cornell, 2013). By focusing on the Musée de l'Homme, an ethnographic museum that opened in Paris in 1938 with funding and artifacts from France's colonies, this work challenges the notion that a newer "culture concept" displaced an older biological concept of "race" in the human sciences in the era of the two World Wars. She is also the co-author of France and Its Empire since 1870 (2010), and her first book A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895-1930 (1997) examined French colonial ideology and practices on the ground in Sub-Saharan Africa. She teaches courses on the History of the Idea of Race in Europe 1500 to the Present, on Colonial Encounters, and on Modern France and its Empire.

Kip Curtis is an environmental historian whose scholarship has focused on capitalism and nature in the western mining industry and Henry David Thoreau. His first book, Gambling on Ore: The Nature of Metal Mining in the United States, was published in 2013.  He is currently working on an essay exploring the role of mineral geography in shaping natural resource strategy during and after World War II and has begun a manuscript project exploring the intersection of gold rushes and cross-cultural violence in the 19th century United States West.  In addition to his historical scholarship he is leading a food systems intervention project in Mansfield Ohio as part of his Ecology and Social Justice initiative on campus.

Bart Elmore earned his B.A. in history from Dartmouth College in 2004 and his M.A. (2007) and Ph.D. (2012) from the University of Virginia, specializing in global environmental history and American history. In 2012, he accepted the Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellowship in Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy at the University of California, Berkeley. He then served three years as Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Alabama beginning in 2013 and helped start the department’s environmental history program before joining the OSU faculty in 2016. He was a Carnegie Fellow at New America for 2016-2017. In addition to serving in the history department, Bart is a member of the Sustainable and Resilient Economy Discovery Group at OSU. His first book, Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism (W. W. Norton, 2015) won the Axiom Business Book Award for best business commentary in 2015 and the Council of Graduate Schools 2016 Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities. The project, which examines the environmental impact of Coca-Cola’s worldwide operations, grew out of his dissertation at the University of Virginia, but the roots of Bart’s interest in Coca-Cola run deeper, as he grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, the heart of Coke country. Continuing his research at the nexus of business and global environmental history, Bart is completing a manuscript that details the international ecological history of the Monsanto Company. He currently edits the Histories of Capitalism and the Environment Series at West Virginia University Press. In addition to these pursuits, Bart works to reach beyond the academy and has contributed to The Huffington Post, Salon, and other popular media outlets. When not at his desk or teaching, he spends his time paddling down streams, biking up whatever hills he can find, and trekking to nearby mountains. 

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 an 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, 12003), 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. 

Stephen Kern’s current research project is an update of his earlier book titled The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918. It will have the same title except that the periodizing dates will be a hundred years later—1980-2018. It will explore how the main subtopics of the earlier book—The Nature of Time, The Past, The Present, The Future, Speed, the Nature of Space, Form, Distance, and Direction—were fleshed out in the later period, influenced especially by new transportation technologies such as jet planes and new communication technologies such as TV, the internet, and smart phones, among many others. It will also deal with the impact of the end of the Cold War and 9/11 as well as globalism or, later, planetarity, in economics, the environment, terrorism, and communication.

Chris Otter is a specialist in the history of technology, urban history, food history, the history of science, British history and global history. He was educated at the Universities of Oxford, Exeter and Manchester in his native UK, and taught at New York University before arriving at OSU in 2007. He is the author of The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain, 1800-1910 (Chicago, 2008) which received the 2009 Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the American Historical Association and the 2008 Sonia Rudikoff Prize from the Northeast Victorian Studies Association. He is currently completing a history of nutritional transition and food systems in Britain from 1750 to today and is also working on a longer-term project on the deep history of technology and human niche-construction.

Geoffrey Parker has taught in the UK (Cambridge and St Andrews), Canada (UBC) and the US (Illinois, Yale, and Ohio State), and directed more than 30 doctoral dissertations to completion. He has published books and articles on military history (The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1988, revised edition 1996) and early modern Europe (Imprudent King: a new life of Philip II, 2014, paperback edition 2015). He has also published a major work of global environmental history, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (Yale University Press, 2013; paperback edition, 2014; abridged and revised edition, 2017). His work has been translated into many languages, and has won several prizes, including the biennial Heineken Prize for History in 2012 and a British Academy Medal for a landmark scholarly achievement (Global Crisis) in 2014.

Randy Roth is a professor of History and Sociology at Ohio State and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He specializes in the history of the United States from colonial times to the present, with an emphasis on social and cultural history, the history of crime and violence, environmental history, the history of religion, the history of democracies, global history, quantitative methods, and social theory. He has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Roundtable of Crime Trends (2013-2016), which investigated the causes of the drop in crime rates across the affluent world since the 1970s, and as a member of the Editorial Board of the American Historical Review (2014-2017).   Professor Roth is the author of American Homicide (The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 2009), which received the 2011 Michael J. Hindelang Award from American Society of Criminology for the outstanding contribution to criminology over the previous three years, and the 2010 Allan Sharlin Memorial Prize from the Social Science History Association for an outstanding book in social science history. American Homicide was also named one of the Outstanding Academic Books of 2010 by Choice.

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.

Sam White earned his M.A. in Middle East Studies and Modern History from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) in 2002 and his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 2008.  His research focuses on reconstructing historical climate and weather and their human impacts, drawing on written sources and scientific studies.  He is the author of two monographs—The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America (Harvard University Press, 2017)—as well as various articles and chapters in both historical and scientific books and journals.  Prof. White is lead editor of the forthcoming Palgrave Handbook to Climate History and the co-founder and website administrator of the Climate History Network.  His publications have won several prizes, including the Middle East Studies Association Albert Hourani award and American Society for Environmental History Leopold-Hidy Award.  He teaches in various areas of global and American environmental history as well as Big History.

Other Affiliated faculty:

Leo Coleman is an anthropologist whose research examines technological systems and political forms in colonial and contemporary India and Britain. He is currently completing a book manuscript on electricity and the local state in Delhi, India, focused on the privatization of the electricity system and its consequences. This project addresses issues of provision and access to basic utilities, as well as the environmental and cultural effects of large-scale technological systems. He teaches, in the Department of Comparative Studies, both undergraduate and graduate courses on social studies of science and technology.

Clark S. Larsen is a University Distinguished Professor in 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. 

Rick Steckel is an SBS Distinguished Professor of Economics (Emeritus), 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. 

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