In 1842, the American popular magazine writer Eliza Leslie wrote a story entitled ‘The Rain King, or a Glance into the Next Century’, which was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book (p. 58). Looking forward to a fictional 1942, Leslie portrayed the so-called Rain King offering weather on demand to the residents of the Philadelphia area.
This is an unusual book in terms of the range of its discrete and varied chapters. Its strongest continuing themes are ecology and the Sundarbans. Despite an occasional lack of context and connection, each section is of interest, and some are original and thought-provoking.
Environmental historians take pride in the interdisciplinary character of their field. Yet they practice this interdisciplinarity mostly by drawing from methodologies and approaches from several disciplines. Rarer, and definitively more challenging, are the attempts to establish an actual dialogue between disciplines.
The main theme of this book is American environmentalism and the development of the modern environmental movement.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).