From: Lisa Mighetto <>
Subject: ASEH News Summer 2012
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in this issue:
president's column: environmental history and mainstream history today
note from the editor of aseh news
the profession: from state schools to the state capitol
the profession: public history in Hawaii
member news
announcements: award recipients, submissions for awards and fellowships, and more
photos from Madison conference
deadline for submitting proposals for 2013 conference extended to 22 June
Click here to submit proposals

Note from program committee:
We are anticipating a lively and convivial gathering in Toronto - one of the America's most dynamic cities. The conference theme "Confluences, Crossings, and Power" calls attention to the ways that scholarly inquiries into human - environment relationships merge, intersect, and challenge anthropocentric approaches to history.
We are eager for panels, roundtables, or posters that share original research, offer incisive syntheses of what the field has accomplished, or provoke scholars to consider what remains to be done.
The conference will be held in Toronto's historic Fairmont Royal York hotel, a splendid railway hotel built in the 1920s. In addition, attendees will be able to participate in field trips to sites of interest in the Greater Toronto area, including Hamilton harbour, the McMichael collection of Canadian art, aboriginal archaeological sites in Toronto, and Niagara Falls.




Mark Your Calendars:

Toronto conference

3-6 April 2013


new journal editor appointed
Nancy Langston, current editor of Environmental History, has accepted a position at Michigan Tech and will step down as editor in 2013. Lisa Brady, Boise State University, has been appointed the incoming editor, beginning in 2013. More info. will be available in the fall issue of this newsletter and on the journal website.
above: Lisa Brady, incoming editor of Environmental History




report on Hal Rothman Fun(d) Run
Organizer Jamie Lewisreports that the 3rd annual Hal Rothman Fun(d) Run, held in Madison last March, was another success. 15 brave souls came out on a cold, blustery Saturday morning to run or walk 3 miles along the lake front to help raise money for the Hal Rothman Fellowship Fund. Others were there
in spirit, opting to contribute to the fund but not to participate in the run.
More than $500 was raised. Next year will mark the first time the run will be held on international soil. Sign up this fall on the Toronto conference registration form.
Hal Rothman Run in Madison - photo courtesy Jamie Lewis
aseh purchases carbon offsets

ASEH collected $1,500 for carbon offsets at our conference in Madison, which we used to support a reforestation project in Panama - one with social as well as environmental benefits. Thank you to all who contributed - and thank you to ASEH's sustainability committee! Click here for more info.


aseh news
Published quarterly by the American Society for Environmental History. If you have an article, announcement, or an item for the "member news" section of our next newsletter, send to
by September 7, 2012.

aseh news

summer 2012            volume 23, issue 2

president's column: environmental history and mainstream history today 

School is out and summer is settling in where I live. The proportion of my brain occupied by useful thoughts - e.g. how much grading will I be able to get done between taking my daughter to track practice and collecting my son from the wrestling warehouse [don't ask] and was I supposed to get three gallons of milk or just two this time and if I call my wife to ask her will it only confirm her profound suspicion that I am hopelessly impractical? - is reduced to a minimum.


So I find myself at liberty to contemplate less useful matters, such as just when will the White Sox fade from pennant contention this year and how is the health of environmental history nowadays? I have for years felt smugly satisfied with the intellectual state of our sub-discipline. Like everyone else, I have wished there were more jobs, more opportunities, more research funds, more of everything that early-career scholars need to make a start. An H-Environment conversation earlier this year on these subjects led to an ASEH task force that will in a few months offer some ideas about what we can do to improve the career landscape in practical ways. But these days, I have also begun to wonder about the intellectual state of environmental history.


In particular, I am starting to worry that we may become victims of our own modest success. We are numerous enough now that is possible to write only for one another.  That way, I worry, marginalization lies.


Marginalization, even ghettoization, might not seem a terrible thing for environmental history.  In some ways it would be more comfortable if we did not try to interest historians of different outlooks. After all, there are geographers and anthropologists (among others) eager to take part in our conversation. So why go out of our way to reach agricultural, business, cultural, diplomatic, economic, family, gender, health, intellectual (and that's only a-i) historians?  A lot of them don't seem interested in reaching out to us.


My answer is: because it would be bad for our health.  Not only is it good for us to read the work of other kinds of historians, it is good for us to write for them as well. There is a larger conversation, or more accurately a kaleidoscope of ever-changing intersecting conversations in the history profession, that we should aspire to influence with our work. It is a good challenge for us intellectually.


To meet it better, we need to devote a bit more effort to writing things that other historians will feel they cannot ignore. The best way, I suspect, is to write environmental histories of things other historians most care about. Whether that means the French Revolution, the Bantu migration, or the ideas of Margaret Sanger, there is an environmental history to it. We can show that, and thereby enrich the larger conversation.


Environmental historians have long done a little of this in books like Worster's Dust Bowl or Crosby's Ecological Imperialism.  Perhaps now we are at last doing more.  Brett Walker, last year's George Perkins Marsh Prize recipient, wrote about the industrialization of Japan; Lisa Brady, incoming editor of our journal, just published a book on the U.S. Civil War.


A forthright example is Mark Fiege's recent book, Republic of Nature.  In his first pages he explains that two of his students once asked him why his American environmental history course didn't have real American history in it.  Why so much about parks and not a word on the American Revolution or slavery?  


So Fiege wrote a book about iconic themes in U.S. history seen from environmental perspectives.  It won't convince every mainstream historian that this is a useful and important way to see the witch trials, the Revolution, the Civil War, and so forth - he didn't even convince me when it came to Brown v. Board of Education.  But only by taking on iconic themes can we persuade mainstream historians that they can no longer afford to regard environmental history as marginal to their intellectual concerns.


French Revolution, anyone? 


-John McNeill
ASEH President
note from the editor of aseh news

ASEH's newsletter has included the column "The Profession" since 2006, featuring articles on how to apply for a grant, present at a conference, prepare for a job interview, conduct an oral history interview, and other topics. The next several issues will include articles from environmental historians whose work engages the public.

At our Madison conference in March ASEH's executive committee approved the formation of an Advisory Board for Professional Development and Public Engagement, which during the next year will consider how ASEH can assist in preparing graduate students for careers in environmental history outside an academic setting. Click here for a list of current Advisory Board members. The activities of the board will be reported in the newsletter throughout the next several quarters.

As part of this larger effort, the two articles below were written by Christopher Manganiello and Kieko Matteson, both past recipients of ASEH's Rachel Carson award for best dissertation. They provide examples of the kinds of projects and positions that are available to environmental historians, while demonstrating how excellent scholarship - and some initiative - can result in employment outside the university.

-Lisa Mighetto

the profession: from state schools to the state capitol
by Christopher J. Manganiello, Georgia River Network

I was grading final exams when the phone rang two weeks before Christmas: "We'd like to offer you the job."  At the time I was a freeway-flying, semester-to-semester contract-instructor teaching three US surveys with no option to teach upper-level courses.

Days later, I met with my future boss to discuss the offer.  The deal was great: a full-time salary with benefits. I accepted that offer, started in January, and remain Georgia River Network's Policy Director.

ASEH members may find the story about my recent transition from academia to the NGO-world useful given the H-Environment thread - "The Job Crisis and ASEH" - that Joel Tarr kicked off in January, the Executive Committee's subsequent response and the Madison conference's "Professional Development Workshop."

There are three reasons I got the call:

First, I was a known commodity.  Landing a tenure-track job in higher-education had always been my goal until Lehman Brothers was history. As the Great Recession began eviscerating state education budgets and federal agency jobs appeared politically unstable, I started thinking about my "plan B." Today, all graduate instructors must encourage students to develop a plan B.

In 2009 I had made a cold call to GRN's office to inquire about volunteer work.  It just so happened that the staff wanted to start a policy related blog - so I helped launch the Georgia Water Wire and found ways to adapt my research and writing to fit the organization's communication goals.

Second, I had demonstrated that I could think strategically.  As a graduate student I had spent countless days reading constituent correspondence in political collections, agency reports in the National Archives, and dusty trade journals. These experiences trained me how to think - and see how others think - about the fluid nature of social, economic, and environmental policy. Additionally, my grasp of political history and interest in the legislative and agency rule-making processes have made my transition easier.

Finally: buy-in.  I believe in my organization's mission: citizen action for clean water cuts across the social spectrum.  I can talk about endangered species or scenic rivers if necessary.  But what's practical and what I really care about is securing public resources - like clean water - for all.

Environmental historians, graduate coordinators, and students would be best served to learn what the broad spectrum of NGOs do want and how graduate programs can train advocates to inspire, communicate, and engage citizens collectively on multiple issues in new and powerful ways. I agree with members of the ASEH community who have commented on this topic before: most graduate programs provide the skills NGOs desire but do not explicitly prepare students to work in non-academic settings. Knowing the Clean Water Act's history is important for what I do but is different from tracking the permits it requires.

Training for the non-academic world - like many graduate student experiences - requires individual initiative, taking risks, and - for those interested in environmental politics - thick skin and fire-in-the-belly.

Dr. Christopher J. Manganiello can be reached via

the profession: public history in Hawai`i

By Kieko Matteson, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa


Public history is an area in which the ASEH has been actively working to develop job possibilities for environmental historians. Currently, for example, the organization has a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service (NPS), which resulted in a contract to research and write a "Special History of World War II Activities in Pacific Island Park Units."  The project's aim is to examine military-related activities in the Hawai`i national parks, focusing especially on parks that are not already dedicated to World War II interpretation and commemoration.


The project will result in a Special History report and presentations that provide historical context for the remnants of military installations - among them roads, buildings, water tanks, and radio towers - as well as a framework for understanding the interplay between military objectives and the natural environment. In assisting the NPS with interpretation and possible National Register nominations, this "Special History" project not only fulfills ASEH's mission of increasing environmental-historical understanding, it also presents these findings to a wide audience.


The project further expands job opportunities for scholars by fostering connections with the NPS and by highlighting the importance of environmental historical analysis in the NPS's interpretation for the public of particular sites. In this case, the ASEH-NPS "Special History of World War II Activities in Pacific Island Park Units" provides funding for two Ph.D. scholars and two graduate students to conduct environmental history research and writing. The project includes William Champman, a historic preservation specialist at the University of Hawai`i - and me, Kieko Matteson, in the UH History Department, along with two UH grad students in related fields.


There are numerous national park units in Hawai`i. Some of them, most prominently Pearl Harbor (formally known as "World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor") are already interpreted through a WWII lens.


Others, however, including Hawai`i Volcanoes and Haleakala, Kaloko-Honokohau, Kalaupapa, Pu`uhonua O Honaunau, Pu`ukohola Heiau, and Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, include remnants of the war years that require historical context for National Register nominations and public interpretation.


above: remnants from the war years, Kalaupapa, Molokai


Taking into account the history and physical characteristics of the Hawai`i National Park Units, the primary emphasis of this study is upon the intersection of the natural and built environment, and the interaction between military personnel, military activities and Hawai`i's ecosystems.


Topics include the following: the ways that the geophysical features of the islands influenced the form, type, and site of military installations; the structures created or adapted for military purposes during WWII; how the U.S. military viewed the Hawai`i National Park lands during the war years (1941-1945); in what ways the parks contributed to the recreational life of service personnel in Hawai'i; how military construction changed the landscape over the short and long term - facilitating, for example, the acceleration and growth of tourism in the parks in the years after 1946; and how the expansion of the military's presence during WWII affected Hawai`i parks' ecology through, among other things, the introduction and spread of invasive species, such as the use of hundreds of native Silversword plants (see photo above left) to "sculpt" military insignia viewable from the foot of Haleakala.


Overall, our research indicates that military use and development in the name of wartime expediency significantly affected park development and brought about lasting ecological change. As the lingering presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Kalaupapa National Historic Park demonstrates, the effects of WWII activity persist in the parks in sometimes volatile and unpredictable ways.


As our work thus far on this project suggests, there is ample need for meaningful, in-depth environmental historical analysis in the U.S. National Parks. In the case of Hawai`i's experience in World War II, the "Special History of World War II Activities in Pacific Island Park Units" offers the opportunity to understand the multivalent dimensions and critical role of sites that contributed to the war effort and were in turn enduringly shaped by it.


above: working on the NPS history at the University of Hawai`i

The contributions of these sorts of public history projects and the opportunities to undertake them will, we hope, continue to expand in the future.

photos courtesy Kieko Matteson and Lisa Mighetto

member news

Kathleen A. Brosnan has been appointed to the Paul H. and Doris Eaton Travis Chair at the University of Oklahoma where she will work with colleagues and students in Environmental History and U.S. Western History.


Jon Christensen has accepted a position at UCLA in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the History Department, teaching, continuing his research and writing, and helping to develop a new initiative in environmental communications.


Gregg Mitman, the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was awarded the 2012 William H. Welch Medal for his book

Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape our Lives and Landscapes (Yale University Press, 2007), presented by the American Association for the History of Medicine in April.


In addition, Gregg Mitman and Paul Erickson, an Assistant Professor in History, Environmental Studies, and Science in Society at Wesleyan University, won the 2012 Ralph Gomory Prize for their article "Latex and Blood: Science, Markets, and American Empire," which appeared in Radical History Review, Spring 2010. This prize recognizes historical work on the effects of business enterprises on the economic conditions of the countries in which they operate. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize, presented at the Business History Conference annual meeting.


Carolyn Merchant will be at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in fall 2012. She will be working on a project on Ideas of Nature in the Scientific Revolution for which she has received an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship. She was recently elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Temple University Press has published Dangerous Trade: Histories of Industrial Hazard across a Globalizing World by Christopher C. Sellers and Joseph Melling. For more information, see:

The Univeristy of North Carolina Press has published Crabgrass Crucible: Suburban Nature and the Rise of Environmentalism in Twentieth-Century America by Christopher C. Sellers. For more information, see:

deadline extension for ASEH 2013 conference
The deadline for proposal submissions for ASEH's conference in Toronto has been extended to 22 June. Click here for more info.


ASEH award recipients


ASEH presented the following awards at the annual conference in March 2012:


Distinguished Service Award: Thomas R. Dunlap


George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book: David Biggs, Quagmire: Nation-Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta, University of Washington Press.


Alice Hamilton Prize for best article outside Environmental HistoryKatherine A. Grandjean, "New World Tempests: Environment, Scarcity, and the Coming of the Pequot War," William and Mary Quarterly (January 2011).


Leopold-Hidy Prize for best article in Environmental HistorySamuel White, "From Globalized Pig Breeds to Capitalist Pigs: A Study in Animal Cultures and Evolutionary History" (January 2011).

above: President John McNeill presented the best dissertation award to Bradley Skopyk in Madison.

 Rachel Carson Prize for best dissertation: Bradley Skopyk, ""Undercurrents of Conquest: The Shifting Terrain of Indigenous Agriculture in Colonial Tlaxcala, Mexico," York University.

Click here to view comments on this year's awards.


ASEH award submissions for 2012 - first notice


This year ASEH's prize committees will evaluate submissions (published books and articles and completed dissertations) that appear between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012.


Please send three copies of each submission of books and articles (these must be hard copies, or paper copies) by November 9, 2012 to:   


Lisa Mighetto


ASEH, UW Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program

University of Washington

1900 Commerce Street

Tacoma, WA 98402


electronic submission of dissertations: 
We encourage electronic submissions of your dissertation, if your dissertation was approved between Nov. 1, 2011 and Oct. 31, 2012. Submit in pdf format as a single file less than 5 megabytes in size to by November 9, 2012. 


Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship


ASEH created this fellowship to recognize the contributions of Samuel P. Hays, the inaugural recipient of the society's Distinguished Scholar Award, and to advance the field of environmental history, broadly conceived. The fellowship provides a single payment of $1,000 to help fund travel to and use of an archive or manuscript repository. It is open to practicing historians (either academic, public, or independent). Graduate students are ineligible. A Ph.D. is not required. Submissions will be accepted until September 30, 2012, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2012 for funding in January 2013.

To apply, please submit the following items:

  • A two-page statement (500 words) explaining your project and how you intend to use the research funds
  •  A c.v. no more than two pages in length.

All items for the Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship must be submitted electronically to Phil Garone, chair of the committee, by September 30, 2012 at 


Hal Rothman Research Fellowship


The Hal Rothman Research Fellowship was created to recognize graduate student achievements in environmental history research in honor of Hal Rothman, recipient of ASEH's Distinguished Service award in 2006 and editor of Environmental History for many years. The fellowship provides a single payment of $1,000 for Ph.D. graduate student research and travel in the field of environmental history, without geographical restriction. The funds must be used to support archival research and travel during 2011.


Students enrolled in any Ph.D. program worldwide are eligible to apply. Applications will be accepted until September 30, 2012, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2012, for funding in January 2013.

To apply, please submit the following three items:

  •  two-page statement (500 words) explaining your project and how you intend to use the research funds.
  • A c.v.
  • A letter of recommendation from your graduate advisor. 

All items for the Hal Rothman Research Fellowship must be submitted electronically to by September 30, 2012.

call for proposals to host ASEH conference


ASEH's site selection committee is now soliciting proposals from individuals or groups who are interested in hosting our annual meeting in 2015. Those interested should contact the chair of the site selection committee, Sarah S. Elkind for a copy of the ASEH's conference guidelines and other information. The deadline for submission of proposals for the 2015 meeting is August 31, 2012. Please keep in mind that hosting a conference requires substantial effort and time as well as significant institutional support, and that the proposed local arrangement chair must reside in the city proposed. 


other environmental history conferences


The 24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine will be held in the University of Manchester on 22-28 July 2013. The theme of the meeting is 'Knowledge at Work' and preliminary details of the Congress, including key dates for the submission of proposals for panels and papers, can be found at

The call for submissions is now open and the deadline is Monday 30 April 2012 and further details can be found at The call for papers will open on 1 May 2012 with the deadline being 30 November 2012.


The European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) is pleased to invite proposals for sessions, roundtables, papers, posters and other, more experimental forms of communicating scholarship for its 2013 biennial conference in Munich, Germany. The conference will be hosted and organized by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC) and held at LMU Munich (LMU: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) from 20-24 August 2013. Please visit our website: Abstracts will be accepted until 15 September 2012.


The Doctoral Program in History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to be hosting the Workshop for the History of the Environment, Agriculture, Technology, and Science (WHEATS) in 2013. Potential participants should visit the website linked below to submit a brief abstract (200 words) and a short curriculum vitae by August 1, 2012. Accepted papers will be due February 1, 2013. To submit a proposal, please visit: For further information, visit: Contact the organizers at:   

photos from Madison conference

Click here for comments about our meeting in Madison, held in March 2012.
above: plenary talk
above: poster session
above: book exhibit
above: trip to Leopold Shack
above: whooping cranes
above: birding at Horicon Marsh

above: trip to John Muir's boyhood home
from left to right: David Biggs, best book award recipient; Bradley Skopyk, best dissertation award recipient; and Tom Dunlap, distinguished service award recipient
above: bluegrass music
Thank you, Madison local arrangements team and program committee! See you in Toronto!

aseh news is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History

John McNeill, Georgetown University, President
Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vice President/President Elect 
Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College, Secretary

Executive Committee:
Sterling Evans, University of Oklahoma
Sara Gregg, University of Kansas
Marcus Hall, University of Zurich
Tina Loo, University of British Columbia
Linda Nash, University of Washington
Louis Warren, University of California-Davis
Graeme Wynn, Univeristy of British Columbia


Ex Officio, Past Presidents:
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University
Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History:
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News:
Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma


Graduate Student Liaison:
Kara Schlichting, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


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