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From the Periphery to the Center: North American Environmental History

Andrew C. Isenberg


Global Environment 12 (2013): 80–101

North American environmental history was on the edges of the historical profession for most of the twentieth century. The concerns of its practitioners found little purchase within mainstream North American history. Instead, in part because of the inherently interdisciplinary nature of the field, environmental historians found their closest allies in departments of geography, ecology, or anthropology. Starting in the late 1960s, in departments of American studies that brought together Americanists from different disciplinary perspectives, environmental history began to emerge by synthesizing a materialist approach that emphasized environmental agency in the form of diseases and natural catastrophes and a cultural approach that considered the changing apprehensions of nature in human thought. In recent years, North American environmental historians increasingly have applied the insights of environmental history to the central events of mainstream North American history.
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