Subscribe to this seminar series for $25, and you will receive access to the seminar papers for THREE series: the Boston Area Early American History Seminar, the Boston Environmental History Seminar, and the Boston Immigration and Urban History Seminar. We recognize that topics frequently resonate across these three fields; now, mix and match the seminars that you attend!

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the latest scholarship. Subscribe

The Boston Environmental History Seminar is an occasion for scholars as well as interested members of the public to discuss aspects of American environmental history from prehistory to the present day. Presenters come from a variety of disciplines including history, urban planning, and environmental management. Six to eight sessions take place annually during the academic year, and most focus on works in progress.

Seminar meetings revolve around the discussion of a precirculated paper. Sessions open with remarks from the essayist and an assigned commentator, after which the discussion is opened to the floor. After each session, the Society serves a light buffet supper.

October

Environmental History Seminar How Rachel Carson Became a Revolutionary: Environmental Politics and the Public Sphere 13 October 2015.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required David Hecht, Bowdoin College Comment: Chris Bosso, Northeastern University Silent Spring is generally considered a foundational text of the modern environmental ...

Silent Spring is generally considered a foundational text of the modern environmental movement. However, this paper contends that Rachel Carson’s legacy is more mixed than the historical memory about her allows. This essay considers the surprisingly varied reception of Silent Spring over the last five decades. Ultimately, it argues, that assessment that Carson's work was revolutionary reflects the vicissitudes of environmental politics as much as anything intrinsic to the book itself.

More
November
Environmental History Seminar André Michaux and the Many Politics of Trees in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World 10 November 2015.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Elizabeth Hyde, Kean University Comment: Joseph Cullon, MIT In 1785, French botanist André Michaux was dispatched to the United States to study and ...

In 1785, French botanist André Michaux was dispatched to the United States to study and collect North American specimens in an attempt to find trees that could replenish French forests. This essay offers a new analysis of Michaux’s mission in the context of the geo-political and diplomatic circumstances of his day. It demonstrates the importance of having botanical knowledge of a realm, and the value of a scientist who could navigate and communicate such information.

More
December
Environmental History Seminar Rerouting Risk: New Orleans and the Mississippi River 8 December 2015.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Craig E. Colten, Louisiana State University Comment: Steve Moga, Smith College New Orleans has maintained a complicated relationship with the Mississippi River, which offers both ...

New Orleans has maintained a complicated relationship with the Mississippi River, which offers both a means of commerce and the threat of flooding. A massive plan to restore coastal wetlands offers some hope for the future, but it hinges on the very type of massive engineering that created the city’s perilous situation in the first place. A review of the impacts caused by flood diversions offers a perspective on the environmental consequences of the impending transformations.

More
January
Environmental History Seminar Airplanes and Postwar America: An Environmental History of the Jet Age 12 January 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Thomas Robertson, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Sonja Duempelmann, Harvard University This seminar will assess the environmental consequences of aviation, studying the entire twentieth ...

This seminar will assess the environmental consequences of aviation, studying the entire twentieth century with an emphasis on the transition to jets in the 1950s and 1960s. It will examine the ways airplanes have shaped resource use, the spatial arrangement of people and things, surveying and international development, knowledge about the world, and environmental activism.

More
February
Environmental History Seminar The History of Ecological Restoration: From Bombs to Bac-O-Bits 9 February 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Laura J. Martin, Harvard University Comment: Brian Payne, Bridgewater State University Environmental organizations spend billions of dollars per year on environmental restoration—a ...

Environmental organizations spend billions of dollars per year on environmental restoration—a set of practices that encompass invasive species removal, dam removal, prescribed burning, and captive breeding. Should restoration be considered its own movement? This paper explores the intellectual and cultural history of ecological restoration from 1945 to 1965, emphasizing the connections between ecological restoration and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

More
March
Environmental History Seminar How to Police Your Food: A Story of Controlling Homes and Bodies in the Early Age of Manufactured Foods 8 March 2016.Tuesday, all day RSVP required Benjamin R. Cohen, Lafayette College Comment: Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University This project addresses three concerns of our day: food, knowledge, and control. These concerns are ...

This project addresses three concerns of our day: food, knowledge, and control. These concerns are anchored in debates over environmental and public health inside a world of industrial food. By examining the dawn of this manufactured food system, it argues that decisions about protecting the boundary of nation, home, and body—and defining pure food—were shaped by competing ways of understanding how to grow and know food.

More
April
Environmental History Seminar Surviving the 1970s: The Case of the Friends of the Earth 12 April 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Jennifer Thomson, Bucknell University Comment: Chad Montrie, University of Massachusetts—Lowell How did environmental politics survive the de-regulation, economic crisis, and nativism of the 1970s ...

How did environmental politics survive the de-regulation, economic crisis, and nativism of the 1970s? What compromises did environmental activists make? This paper engages with these questions through the fractious history of the environmental organization Friends of the Earth (FOE). Founded in 1969, FOE’s first decade illuminates how the political and economic changes of the 1970s impacted, limited, and ultimately gave shape to the parameters of mainstream environmentalism.

More
More events
Environmental History Seminar How Rachel Carson Became a Revolutionary: Environmental Politics and the Public Sphere Please RSVP  Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 13 October 2015.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM David Hecht, Bowdoin College Comment: Chris Bosso, Northeastern University

Silent Spring is generally considered a foundational text of the modern environmental movement. However, this paper contends that Rachel Carson’s legacy is more mixed than the historical memory about her allows. This essay considers the surprisingly varied reception of Silent Spring over the last five decades. Ultimately, it argues, that assessment that Carson's work was revolutionary reflects the vicissitudes of environmental politics as much as anything intrinsic to the book itself.

close
Environmental History Seminar André Michaux and the Many Politics of Trees in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World Please RSVP  Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 10 November 2015.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Elizabeth Hyde, Kean University Comment: Joseph Cullon, MIT

In 1785, French botanist André Michaux was dispatched to the United States to study and collect North American specimens in an attempt to find trees that could replenish French forests. This essay offers a new analysis of Michaux’s mission in the context of the geo-political and diplomatic circumstances of his day. It demonstrates the importance of having botanical knowledge of a realm, and the value of a scientist who could navigate and communicate such information.

close
Environmental History Seminar Rerouting Risk: New Orleans and the Mississippi River Please RSVP  Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 8 December 2015.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Craig E. Colten, Louisiana State University Comment: Steve Moga, Smith College

New Orleans has maintained a complicated relationship with the Mississippi River, which offers both a means of commerce and the threat of flooding. A massive plan to restore coastal wetlands offers some hope for the future, but it hinges on the very type of massive engineering that created the city’s perilous situation in the first place. A review of the impacts caused by flood diversions offers a perspective on the environmental consequences of the impending transformations.

close
Environmental History Seminar Airplanes and Postwar America: An Environmental History of the Jet Age Please RSVP  Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 12 January 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Thomas Robertson, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Sonja Duempelmann, Harvard University

This seminar will assess the environmental consequences of aviation, studying the entire twentieth century with an emphasis on the transition to jets in the 1950s and 1960s. It will examine the ways airplanes have shaped resource use, the spatial arrangement of people and things, surveying and international development, knowledge about the world, and environmental activism.

close
Environmental History Seminar The History of Ecological Restoration: From Bombs to Bac-O-Bits Please RSVP  Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 9 February 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Laura J. Martin, Harvard University Comment: Brian Payne, Bridgewater State University

Environmental organizations spend billions of dollars per year on environmental restoration—a set of practices that encompass invasive species removal, dam removal, prescribed burning, and captive breeding. Should restoration be considered its own movement? This paper explores the intellectual and cultural history of ecological restoration from 1945 to 1965, emphasizing the connections between ecological restoration and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

close
Environmental History Seminar How to Police Your Food: A Story of Controlling Homes and Bodies in the Early Age of Manufactured Foods Please RSVP  Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 8 March 2016.Tuesday, all day Benjamin R. Cohen, Lafayette College Comment: Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University

This project addresses three concerns of our day: food, knowledge, and control. These concerns are anchored in debates over environmental and public health inside a world of industrial food. By examining the dawn of this manufactured food system, it argues that decisions about protecting the boundary of nation, home, and body—and defining pure food—were shaped by competing ways of understanding how to grow and know food.

close
Environmental History Seminar Surviving the 1970s: The Case of the Friends of the Earth Please RSVP  Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. 12 April 2016.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Jennifer Thomson, Bucknell University Comment: Chad Montrie, University of Massachusetts—Lowell

How did environmental politics survive the de-regulation, economic crisis, and nativism of the 1970s? What compromises did environmental activists make? This paper engages with these questions through the fractious history of the environmental organization Friends of the Earth (FOE). Founded in 1969, FOE’s first decade illuminates how the political and economic changes of the 1970s impacted, limited, and ultimately gave shape to the parameters of mainstream environmentalism.

close

Back to top