October 4, 2015

Environmental History October 2015, 20.4


TABLE OF CONTENTS October, 2015 | Vol. 20, No. 4


The Shoemaker’s Circus: Grizzly Adams and Nineteenth-Century Animal Entertainment by Jon T Coleman

Water in Paradise: California, Florida, and Environmental Rivalry in the Gilded Age by Henry Knight Lozano

Constructing State Power: Internal and External Frontiers in Colonial North India, 1850s–1900s by Daniel Haines

Chesterfield Inlet, 1949, and the Ecology of Epidemic Polio by Liza Piper


Gallery Editors’ Note by Finis Dunaway

ReinhardtFIG3-550In this issue’s Gallery essay, Bob Reinhardt considers a diverse set of images produced in conjunction with the global campaign to eradicate smallpox. Focusing on three images that circulated in Nigeria during the late 1960s, Reinhardt shows how national and international health authorities promoted the vaccination program through the strategic use of magazine and poster illustrations. According to Reinhardt, these images celebrated humanity’s technological triumph over the deadly disease and effaced global power dynamics by presenting local people involved in a universal campaign to defeat smallpox. His essay complements this issue’s Forum on technology, ecology, and human health since 1850 by demonstrating how visual analysis can complicate historical interpretations of disease, technology, and health.

I have been a fan of the Gallery section ever since Kathryn Morse and Adam Rome launched this unique feature of the journal twelve years ago. I am delighted to serve as the new Gallery editor and want to thank Lisa Brady, Neil Maher, and Cindy Ott for their enormous assistance and advice during this transition period. I hope to build on the excellent work of my predecessors by treating the Gallery section as a creative and capacious forum. I look forward to working with authors who want to probe the myriad ways that images can enrich and enliven our field.

Read the full Gallery Essay Smallpox Denaturalized, Demonized, and Eradicable by Bob H. Reinhardt


Issue 20.4 – October 2015
by Lisa M. Brady,

The articles in this issue of Environmental History survey topics from the highly visible to the mostly invisible. The first three essays share a focus on observable nature: Jon Coleman tells the story of Grizzly Adams and his menagerie; Henry Knight Lozano compares booster literature about California and Florida; and Daniel Haines explains how British officials in India remade the colonial landscape through irrigation. Each contains analysis of power—to control, to manipulate, to reorganize—and of the limits of that power. The second set of articles all explore elements of nature that have, until relatively recently, been hidden from view: diseases and their microscopic causes. Liza Piper recounts a rare outbreak of polio in the Canadian Arctic; the Forum authors reveal the myriad ways technology affects human health and disease incidence; and Bob Reinhardt examines vaccination advertisements aimed at combating smallpox. Together, they illustrate the complex connections between disease, environment, and technology that characterize the history of human illness and well-being. As a whole, the broad range of studies in this issue reminds us that our field is not narrowly construed but instead provides opportunities for research that span the spectrum of nature and human experience.

ColemanFIG4-550Through an in-depth analysis of Grizzly Adams and his menagerie, Jon Coleman artfully links the processes of industrialization in nineteenth-century New England with the burgeoning myth of the wild in California. In “The Shoemaker’s Circus,” Coleman traces the path Adams took from shoemaking to bear wrangling, demonstrating that the transition from one to another was not as unexpected as we might believe. Central to both professions were deeply ingrained gender and class structures bolstered by concepts of control over nature and subordinates, all of which industrialism challenged. In the face of significant social and economic change, Coleman argues, “Adams manipulated the social behavior of grizzly bears to bring a dying patriarchal labor tradition back to life.” Coleman concludes that although his end revealed him to be a deluded fool, Grizzly Adams lived by appealing principles: “He thought humans could mingle with creation and rebuild their lives through an appreciation of nature. He thought people could learn from and improve themselves through the sincere engagement with wild things. He thought workers deserved to set their own rules and live by their own values.” But Adams’s ideals were as unattainable as was control over his ursine family; his bears killed him just as surely as industrialization destroyed the shoemakers’ independent craft. In the end, Adams’s audiences witnessed not just an animal show, but a live-action representation of “the past torn apart by the future.”

KnightLozanoFIG3-550Like Coleman, Henry Knight Lozano examines the interstices between expectations and reality in his article “Water in Paradise.” Knight Lozano provides keen insight into the larger implications of booster literature aimed at enticing money and people toward the “twin paradises” of California and Florida during the Gilded Age. Fraternal, rather than identical twins, the two states engaged in intense sibling rivalry as they competed for tourists and settlers in the decades after the American Civil War. Each state promoted its own natural advantages in contrast to the other’s, with California extolling the health benefits of an arid climate and the “civilizing” effects of irrigation while Florida touted its abundance of water as a recreational and agricultural boon. This contest for investment set the stage, Knight Lozano suggests, for each state’s relationship with water and for its water management practices historically and today. “Water is central to daunting environmental questions related to population growth and economic development in both California and Florida,” Knight Lozano argues, with both states suffering from an excess of success. Neither state could live up to the promises made by boosters then, and both struggle now under the pressures put in motion by those promoters over a century ago.

Fig2Haines-550Although dramatically different in place and approach, Daniel Haines also incorporates water as a central element in his research. In “Constructing State Power,” Haines explains why, in the second half of the nineteenth century, British colonial officials turned to irrigation canals as the means for exerting greater state influence over the northwestern Indian province of Sindh. That region, Haines argues, posed particular challenges not only because of its geography, but also because it represented two distinct types of frontier—internal and external. Sindh’s external frontier lay in its mountainous north and bordered on tribal areas outside of British territorial claims; in the south, aridity was the primary obstacle to maintaining control over what Haines defines as the province’s internal frontier. Canals promised to be the solution for both. Haines compares colonial irrigation and resettlement policy in the two regions, explaining how British officials intended to remake space in order to enhance political stability. He ably demonstrates that “colonial applications of irrigation technology and land tenure in each case were intended to produce significantly different geographies of state space.” In the north, Haines argues, canals drew frontier tribes into the province, away from the mountains, and brought “them into colonial space” thus helping “to demarcate Upper Sindh as a part of empire’s inside, in contrast with the hills that constituted its outside.” In the south, British canal policy aimed at creating a space where “Indian cultivators would act on their environment to make it agriculturally productive, which in turn would make the cultivators loyal state subjects.”

Fig5Piper-550With Liza Piper’s “Chesterfield Inlet, 1949, and the Ecology of Epidemic Polio,” we turn our gaze toward less visible, but no less influential, aspects of nature. Piper provides a compelling view into the ravages of poliomyelitis on a small largely Inuit community in the Canadian Arctic and how that outbreak transformed biomedical and epidemiological study on the virus. Prior to the Chesterfield Inlet outbreak, polio’s causal mechanism remained elusive; the 1949 epidemic pointed to the virus’s connections to both food and climate. That its primary victims were Inuit, most of whom lacked acquired immunity, proved to be a unique opportunity for research. The Chesterfield Inlet epidemic, Piper suggests, “shows the influence of Arctic environments on polio research at midcentury. This influence arose in part because of the role of [Arctic] environments and their inhabitants as laboratories and research subjects respectively and in part because of the ongoing importance of environmental etiologies to the study of polio.” Piper concludes that although the 1949 epidemic illustrates how an ecological perspective contributed to understandings of immunity and helped to encourage the development of a vaccine, that same perspective “elided the significance of the historical colonization of Arctic people and environments in shaping both the outbreak and the medical knowledge that was created in response to it.”

OtterFIG6PriceSmith1-550This issue’s Forum, “Technology, Ecology, and Human Health Since 1850,” complements both Piper’s article and Bob Reinhardt’s Gallery essay, “Smallpox Denaturalized, Demonized, and Eradicable” (see Finis Dunaway’s Gallery Editor’s Note). The Forum brings together five essays, each one examining a different disease and tying it to modern technologies. Mari Webel examines the role of medical mapping in attempts to eradicate sleeping sickness in German and British colonial Africa. Matthew Klingle challenges the notion of diabetes as a “mismatch disease,” that is, a result of cultural changes, and argues instead that it must be seen as a malady connected to the environment. Chris Otter digs into foodborne diseases, suggesting that while industrialization of food production eliminated certain pathogens, it created opportunities for new ones like Escherichia coli. Similarly, Andrew Price-Smith traces the evolution of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to illustrate that affluence and development harbor disease just as readily as poverty. Finally, Brett Walker deconstructs the dust of the fallen World Trade Center buildings to reveal the hidden toxins—like asbestos—that comprise our modern world. The Forum also includes an introduction by Chris Otter, Nick Breyfogle, and John Brooke, expertly placing the essays into the broader context of the Anthropocene. A response by Linda Nash prompts us to remain attentive to the role of disease in environmental history and urges us to take a close, critical look at our assumptions about both. As many of you know, Cindy Ott and Neil Maher stepped down this spring as our Graphics Editors. They did amazing work and will be missed. We are fortunate to have Finis Dunaway step into the position. Finis is well-known for his excellent work on visual culture. He and I both want to encourage submissions to the Gallery, one of our signature features. Welcome, Finis!