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Environmental History

Environmental History Book List

Finalist for the African Studies Association’s 2010 Melville J. Herskovits Award.
Cover of 'Wielding the Ax'

Wielding the Ax
State Forestry and Social Conflict in Tanzania, 1820–2000
By Thaddeus Sunseri

Forests have been at the fault lines of contact between African peasant communities in the Tanzanian coastal hinterland and outsiders for almost two centuries. In recent decades, a global call for biodiversity preservation has been the main challenge to Tanzanians and their forests. Thaddeus Sunseri uses the lens of forest history to explore some of the most profound transformations in Tanzania from the nineteenth century to the present.

Cover of 'Hanging by a Thread'

Hanging by a Thread
Cotton, Globalization, and Poverty in Africa
Edited by William G. Moseley and Leslie C. Gray

Hanging by a Thread illuminates the connections between Africa and the global economy. The editors offer a compelling set of linked studies that detail one aspect of the globalization process in Africa, the cotton commodity chain.

Cover of 'The  World beyond the Windshield'

The World beyond the Windshield
Roads and Landscapes in the United States and Europe
Edited by Christof Mauch and Thomas Zeller

For better or worse, the view through a car's windshield has redefined how we see the world around us. In some cases, such as the American parkway, the view from the road was the be-all and end-all of the highway; in others, such as the Italian autostrada, the view of a fast, efficient transportation machine celebrating either Fascism or its absence was the goal.

Cover of 'Cultivating Success in Uganda'

Cultivating Success in Uganda
Kigezi Farmers and Colonial Policies
By Grace Carswell

Kigezi, a district in southwestern Uganda, is exceptional in many ways. In contrast to many other parts of the colonial world, this district did not adopt cash crops. Soil conservation practices were successfully adopted, and the region maintained a remarkably developed and individualized land market from the early colonial period. Grace Carswell presents a comprehensive study of livelihoods in Kigezi.

Cover of 'Imagining Serengeti'

Imagining Serengeti
A History of Landscape Memory in Tanzania from Earliest Times to the Present
By Jan Bender Shetler

Many students come to African history with a host of stereotypes that are not always easy to dislodge. One of the most common is that of Africa as safari grounds—as the land of expansive, unpopulated game reserves untouched by civilization and preserved in their original pristine state by the tireless efforts of contemporary conservationists.

Winner of the George Perkins Marsh Prize for Best Book in Environmental History · Winner of the Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Work in Geography · Winner of the James Blaut Award in recognition of innovative scholarship in Cultural and Political Ecology
Cover of 'Resurrecting the Granary of Rome'

Resurrecting the Granary of Rome
Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa
By Diana K. Davis

Tales of deforestation and desertification in North Africa have been told from the Roman period to the present. Such stories of environmental decline in the Maghreb are still recounted by experts and are widely accepted without question today. International organizations such as the United Nations frequently invoke these inaccurate stories to justify environmental conservation and development projects in the arid and semiarid lands in North Africa and around the Mediterranean basin.

Cover of 'Triumph of the Expert'

Triumph of the Expert
Agrarian Doctrines of Development and the Legacies of British Colonialism
By Joseph Morgan Hodge

Triumph of the Expert is a history of British colonial policy and thinking and its contribution to the emergence of rural development and environmental policies in the late colonial and postcolonial period. Joseph Morgan Hodge examines the way that development as a framework of ideas and institutional practices emerged out of the strategic engagement between science and the state at the climax of the British Empire.

Cover of 'Inventing Pollution'

Inventing Pollution
Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800
By Peter Thorsheim

Britain's supremacy in the nineteenth century depended in large part on its vast deposits of coal. This coal not only powered steam engines in factories, ships, and railway locomotives but also warmed homes and cooked food. As coal consumption skyrocketed, the air in Britain's cities and towns became filled with ever-greater and denser clouds of smoke.

Cover of 'How Green Were the Nazis?'

How Green Were the Nazis?
Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich
Edited by Franz-Josef Brüggemeier, Mark Cioc, and Thomas Zeller

The Nazis created nature preserves, championed sustainable forestry, curbed air pollution, and designed the autobahn highway network as a way of bringing Germans closer to nature. How Green Were the Nazis?: Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich is the first book to examine the Third Reich's environmental policies and to offer an in-depth exploration of the intersections between brown ideologies and green practices.

Cover of 'Imperial Gullies'

Imperial Gullies
Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho
By Kate B. Showers

Once the grain basket for South Africa, much of Lesotho has become a scarred and degraded landscape. The nation’s spectacular erosion and gullying have concerned environmentalists and conservationists for more than half a century. In Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho, Kate B. Showers documents the truth behind this devastation. Showers reconstructs the history of the landscape, beginning with a history of the soil.

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title
Cover of 'Highland Sanctuary'

Highland Sanctuary
Environmental History in Tanzania’s Usambara Mountains
By Christopher A. Conte

Highland Sanctuary unravels the complex interactions among agriculture, herding, forestry, the colonial state, and the landscape itself. Conte’s study illuminates the debate over conservation, arguing that contingency and chance, the stuff of human history, have shaped forests in ways that rival the power of nature.

Cover of 'Inventing Global Ecology'

Inventing Global Ecology
Tracking the Biodiversity Ideal in India, 1947–1997
By Michael L. Lewis

Inventing Global Ecology grapples with how we should understand the development of global ecology in the twentieth century. Using India as the case study, Professor Michael Lewis considers the development of conservation policies and conservation sciences since the end of World War II and the role of United States scientists, ideas, and institutions in this process.

Cover of 'Social History and African Environments'

Social History and African Environments
Edited by William Beinart and JoAnn McGregor

The explosion of interest in African environmental history has stimulated research and writing on a wide range of issues facing many African nations. This collection represents some of the finest studies to date. The general topics include African environmental ideas and practices; colonial science, the state and African responses; and settlers and Africans' culture and nature.

Cover of 'South Africa’s Environmental History'

South Africa’s Environmental History
Cases and Comparisons
Edited by Stephen Dovers, Ruth Edgecombe, and Bill Guest

Environmental history in southern Africa has only recently come into its own as a distinct field of historical inquiry. While natural resources lie at the heart of all environmental history, the field opens the door to a wide range of inquiries, several of which are pioneered in this collection. South Africa's Environmental History offers a series of local and particular studies followed by more general commentary and comparative studies.

Cover of 'Eroding the Commons'

Eroding the Commons
The Politics of Ecology in Baringo, Kenya, 1890s–1963
By David M. Anderson

Colonial Baringo was largely unnoticed until drought and localized famine in the mid-1920s led to claims that its crisis was brought on by overcrowding and livestock mismanagement. In response to the alarm over erosion, the state embarked on a program for rehabilitation, conservation, and development.