May 27, 2017

Interviews

In January 2007, editor Mark Cioc began including short interviews with leading practitioners in the fields of environmental and forest history in Environmental History. Future interviews will be presented as podcasts, rather than as textual transcripts.

The editor welcomes the participation and assistance of others in this series. If you would like to conduct or co-conduct an interview, please email Lisa Brady at associateeditor@environmentalhistory.net

Donald Pisani Issue 16.1 Joel Tarr is the Richard Caliguiri University Professor of History and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and holds joint appointments with the Departments of History and Engineering and Public Policy, and the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management. He won the CMU Robert Doherty Prize for “Substantial and Sustained Contributions to Excellence in Education” in 1992 and in 2008 the Society for the History of Technology awarded him its Leonardo da Vinci Medal for “Outstanding Contributions to the History of Technology.” Tarr is a prolific and award-winning scholar and currently serves as co-editor of the series, “History of the Urban Environment” at the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Issue 15.4 Donald J. Pisani retired this past spring after twenty years as the Merrick Chair in Western American History at the University of Oklahoma, thirteen years at Texas A&M University, and one year at San Diego State. Known as one of the foremost water policy historians of the American West and a devoted scholar of California history, Pisani holds the distinction of being the only person to have served as president of both the American Society for Environmental History (1997–1999) and the Agricultural History Society (2006–2007). Pisani’s University of Oklahoma colleague Sterling Evans visited with him about his career in environmental history and his thoughts on the history and future of the field.
Issue 15.2J. Donald Hughes has been a pioneer among scholars of the environmental history of the ancient world: a prolific writer, he published his seminal work Ecology in Ancient Civilizations thirty-five years ago, and his Pan’s Travail: Environmental Problems of the Ancient Greeks and Romans (1996) is already a classic. But, to paraphrase the Roman writer Terence, nothing in the field of environmental history seems to be alien to him. As the interview and the appended bibliography below demonstrate, he has done fundamental work in Native American, Pacific Island, and South Asian environmental history, and in recent years he has undertaken a sweeping environmental history of the Mediterranean (2005) and gone global with An Environmental History of the World (2001). In this interview, he talks with us about the shape of his distinguished career, his participation in the early development of the ASEH, and his aspiration to write a kind of environmental history that combines “the total picture … [and] the revelatory detail.”
Issue 15.1 Twenty years ago, William H. McNeill wrote: “The question of whether there is a new field of environmental history with a sufficient body of shared ideas to become a coherent sub-discipline has not really been answered. … Whether [environmental historians] will revolutionize the study of history…, or merely fragment it by creating another coterie of specialists who read one another’s writing and not much else, remains to be seen. But the elementary fact that human beings share the earth with other forms of life, and have from ancient times been capable of altering natural balances more drastically than any other species has ever done, surely ought to become part of all historians’ consciousness.” We are delighted that, two decades after this initial assessment, Professor McNeill, a pioneer in the field of world history, has agreed to discuss the current convergence between world history and environmental history, as well as the shape of his own distinguished career.
Issue 14.3 “It is not often,” John O’Neill has observed, “that a historian coins a new phrase that becomes standard shorthand for some complex phenomenon, but today almost every practicing historian in the U.S., and many overseas, recognize the words ‘The Columbian Exchange.'” Yet Alfred W. Crosby’s book of that title, now indisputably a classic in the field of environmental history, could not find a publisher for several years before it appeared in 1972. In this interview, Crosby discusses the personal and professional background behind his emergence as an environmental historian, comments on the half-dozen major works he has produced since The Columbian Exchange, and offers some shrewd advice for younger practitioners of the craft. The field of environmental history is fortunate to have had among its founders a number of historians who write with elegance, wit, and verve about topics of the largest import. Alfred W. Crosby is surely one of them, and the editors are deeply grateful for the opportunity to interview him about the shape of his career and the state of the field.
Issue 14.2 One of the founders of the ASEH and this journal, John Opie is not only a pioneer in the field of environmental history, but also a gifted photographer. In this wideranging interview he discusses, among many topics, the link between his professional interests and his passion for photography, his early years in Chicago, his role in the genesis of this journal, and the themes of his major books and articles. And he speaks candidly, as perhaps only an emeritus professor can, about the motive that inspires all of us: “passion for a better world than we have so far created and endured.”
Issue 14.1 Susan Flader, professor emerita of western and American environmental history at the University of Missouri, has published seminal works on Aldo Leopold’s life and thought, on forest history, and the history of parks. In this wide-ranging interview, she discusses the origins and development of her work on Leopold, the early years of the American Society for Environmental History (of which she is a past president), her activities as a citizen-activist, and the role of the humanities in shaping her work as an environmental historian.
Joachim Radkau
Joachim Radkau is one of Europe’s best-known environmental historians. Since becoming an environmental historian avant la lettre in the 1970s, he has published widely on a broad array of topics. In this interview, he talks about the development of his interests, afterthoughts on his books, unintended ventures into politics, and the development of the scholarly community in Germany and Europe.
Donald Worster
Issue 13.1 Donald Worster has been a powerful voice for environmental history within the United States and around the world for more than three decades. His scholarship, along with his many public talks and addresses, have alerted historians, scientists, policy makers, and environmental activists about the rich insights that our field offers to anyone concerned with the relationship of humans and nature. This interview explores the personal and intellectual sources of Worster’s scholarship and thought, and his ideas about future directions of the field.
Samuel P. Hays cover
Issue 12.3 Retirement has obviously not diminished the intellectual creativity of Samuel P. Hays, one of the founders of our field. In this interview, we asked Sam to discuss how his personal and academic experiences have shaped his choice of scholarly topics from his first major publication, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (Harvard, 1958), to his most recent one, Wars in the Woods (Pittsburgh, 2006).
Roderick Nash
Issue 12.2 Many readers of this journal have been inspired by Roderick Nash‘s Wilderness and the American Mind and The Rights of Nature, two of the foundational texts in environmental history, but some may be less familiar with his role in establishing environmental studies as an academic discipline and with his well-deserved reputation as one of this country’s premier whitewater boatmen. In this interview, we ask Nash to talk not only about his path-breaking scholarly work, but also about his passion for the outdoors and his role as an environmental advocate.
Hal Rothman
Issue 12.1 In this inaugural interview in what is to be an on-going feature, we felt it fitting to talk with Hal Rothman, long-time editor of this journal and its predecessor Environmental History Review. Most readers will be well-acquainted with at least some of Hal’s work. The length of his bibliography is a testament to his energy and enthusiasm and to his enormous contribution to the field of environmental history. It also is worth noting the many publications and interviews aimed at a lay audience: Rothman is an inspiring example of a true public scholar, an academic who has been determined to take the riches of our field to a wider audience.