Visitors to a new city, faced with a host of new sensations and sights, may find themselves wondering ‘How did this all get here?’ Pondering the origins of an established, yet amorphous entity like a city may overwhelm the average tourist, though it is an exercise familiar to historians.
Over 40 years ago, in the preface to his The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, Alfred Crosby, a key figure among the first generation of environmental historians, emphasized that `Man is a biological entity before he is a Roman Catholic or a capitalist or anything else’ (p. xiii).
In 1942, as Japanese forces swept through Southeast Asia, retreating British colonial officers decided to shoot the dangerous animals living in Rangoon Zoo and to release the harmless ones. Because of their own uncertain futures and limited supplies, they also killed the Zoo’s deer for meat to supplement their increasingly meagre diets.
It was a rather strange experience to be reading Tom Williamson’s book in the week that the British Government proposed legislation to define extinct British animal species as ‘non-native’, and thereby to prevent their re-introduction.(1) The consequent tweetstorm served as a timely reminder that few topics are as contentious as the state of England’s wildlife, and som
Gregory Cushman’s preface opens with some bold claims. He suggests that the Black Death, the African Slave Trade, the Second World War and the harvesting of bird excrement deposits from islands in the Pacific oceans were of equal importance in world history.
John Aberth is fascinated by plagues as disasters, as evidenced by his series of books with titles like From the Brink of the Apocalypse (2001), The Black Death (2005), and Plagues in World History (2011).(1) His latest book An Environmental History of the Middle Ages is likewise centered on the Black Death of 1348–1350 as a turning
In a long and fruitful career, Historiographer Royal T. C. Smout has provided historians of Scotland, the British Isles and Europe with a number of discipline-defining studies.
Chris Pearson’s Mobilizing Nature: The Environmental History of War and Militarization in Modern France is a recent offering from the ever-growing subfield of environmental history that is focusing on the relationship between militaries, war and environment.
The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering After the Enlightenment is both a more narrowly focussed and a more widely cast book than its title would suggest. The core of the work focusses on one physical mountain, and the activities which took place upon and around it from the 18th century onwards: Mont Blanc, the white mountain, and the highest peak in Europe.
This is not the usual kind of book review that I usually write. Instead, in the spirit of the IHR’s intention to create a forum for serious, collaborative engagement, please consider me an agent provocateur who will try to stir things up for the sake (I hope) of our mutual edification. Ellen Arnold sets her sights on a number of very ambitious goals in her fine new book, based on her