This is a very small book on a very big topic. Not that I mean this in any derogatory manner. On the contrary, Stephen Mosley sets out to recount the environmental history of the world since 1500 in some 120 pages, as part of the series Themes in World History which aims to provide serious but brief discussions on important historical topics.
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.
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
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.
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.
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