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Explore environmental history in eight books [reading list] - OUPblog, Oxford University Press

Explore environmental history in eight books [reading list]

Environmental history only emerged a few decades ago but has already established itself as one of the most innovative and important new approaches to history—one that bridges the human and natural world, the humanities and the science, and is truly international in its approach.

To understand the field better and showcase some of the recent research, we’re sharing eight of our latest titles in environmental history for you to explore, share, and enjoy.

1. Sweet Fuel: A Political and Environmental History of Brazilian Ethanol by Jennifer Eaglin

As the hazards of carbon emissions increase and governments around the world seek to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, the search for clean and affordable alternate energies has become an increasing priority in the twenty-first century.

However, one nation has already been producing such a fuel for almost a century: Brazil. Its sugarcane-based ethanol is the most efficient biofuel on the global fuel market, and the South American nation is the largest biofuel exporter in the world.

Buy Sweet Fuel

2. Scars on the Land: An Environmental History of Slavery in the American South by David Silkenat

A comprehensive history of American slavery that examines how the environment fundamentally formed enslaved people’s lives and how slavery remade the Southern landscape.

Over two centuries, from the establishment of slavery in the Chesapeake to the Civil War, one simple calculation had profound consequences: rather than measuring productivity based on outputs per acre, Southern planters sought to maximize how much labor they could extract from their enslaved workforce.

Buy Scars on the Land

3. Unredeemed Land: An Environmental History of Civil War and Emancipation in the Cotton South by Erin Stewart Mauldin

An innovative reconsideration of the Civil War’s profound impact on southern history, Unredeemed Land traces the environmental constraints that shaped the rural South’s transition to capitalism during the late nineteenth century.

Bridging the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods, Unredeemed Land powerfully examines the ways military conflict and emancipation left enduring ecological legacies.

Buy Unredeemed Land, new in paperback

4. Panda Nation: The Construction and Conservation of China’s Modern Icon by E. Elena Songster

Panda Nation links the emergence of the giant panda as a national symbol to the development of nature protection in the People’s Republic of China.

The panda’s transformation into a national treasure exemplifies China’s efforts in the mid-twentieth century to distinguish itself as a nation through government-directed science and popular nationalism.

The story of the panda’s iconic rise offers a striking reflection of China’s recent and dramatic ascent as a nation in global status.

Buy Panda Nation

5. Frozen Empires: An Environmental History of the Antarctic Peninsula by Adrian Howkins

Perpetually covered in ice and snow, the mountainous Antarctic Peninsula stretches southward towards the South Pole where it merges with the largest and coldest mass of ice anywhere on the planet. Yet far from being an otherworldly “Pole Apart,” the region has the most contested political history of any part of the Antarctic Continent.

Since the start of the twentieth century, Argentina, Britain, and Chile have made overlapping sovereignty claims, while the United States and Russia have reserved rights to the entire continent. The environment has been at the heart of these disputes over sovereignty, placing the Antarctic Peninsula at a fascinating intersection between diplomatic history and environmental history.

Buy Frozen Empires

6. Valuing Clean Air: The EPA and the Economics of Environmental Protection by Charles Halvorson

The passage of the Clean Air Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970 marked a sweeping transformation in American politics. In a few short years, the environmental movement pushed Republican and Democratic elected officials to articulate a right to clean air as part of a bevy of new federal guarantees. 

Valuing Clean Air examines how the environmental concern that propelled the Clean Air Act and the EPA coincided with economic convulsions that shook the liberal state to its core.

Buy Valuing Clean Air

7. The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s by Michael Goldfield

The Southern Key charts the rise of labor activism in each and then examines how and why labor organizers struggled so mightily in the region.

Drawing from meticulous and unprecedented archival material and detailed data on four core industriestextiles, timber, coal mining, and steelMichael Goldfield argues that much of what is important in American politics and society today was largely shaped by the successes and failures of the labor movements of the 1930s and 1940s.

Buy The Southern Keynow new in paperback

8. The Making of Our Urban Landscape by Geoffrey Tyack

Britain was the first country in the world to become an essentially urban county. And England is still one of the most urbanized countries in the world.

The town and the city is the world that most of us inhabit and know best. But what do we actually know about our urban world—and how it was created?

Buy The Making of Our Urban Landscape 

Browse OUP's environmental history titles now!

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