The Boston Seminar on Environmental History 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.

 

Most seminar meetings revolve around the discussion of a pre-circulated paper. Sessions open with remarks from the essayist and an assigned commentator, after which the discussion is opened to the floor. Each session is followed by a reception with light refreshments.

 

Attendance is free and open to everyone. Subscribers who remit $25 for the year will receive early online access to any pre-circulated materials. Subscriptions also underwrite the cost of the series. Pre-circulated materials will be available to non-subscribers who have RSVP’d for a session on the day prior to the program. Subscribe to this seminar series and you will receive access to the seminar papers for SIX series: the Boston Seminar on African American History, the Pauline Maier Early American History Seminar, the Boston Seminar on Environmental History, the Boston Seminar on the History of Women, Gender, & Sexuality, the Boston Seminar on Modern American Society and Culture, and our new Seminar on Digital History. We recognize that topics frequently resonate across these four fields; now, mix and match the seminars that you attend!

 

Join the mailing list today by emailing seminars@masshist.org.

 

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

October 2019
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//ehs_banner.jpg Environmental History Seminar Brighton Fair: The Animal Suburb and the Making of Modern Boston 8 October 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Andrew Robichaud, Boston University Zachary Nowak, Harvard University In the nineteenth century, Brighton, Massachusetts became an iconic center of livestock and animal ...

In the nineteenth century, Brighton, Massachusetts became an iconic center of livestock and animal industries in North America. Andrew Robichaud explores the political and environmental dimensions of the rise and fall of this “animal suburb,” and explains its significance, both then and now.

More
November 2019
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//ehs_banner.jpg Environmental History Seminar Engineering, Politics, and Dams: John R. Freeman and San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Water Supply 12 November 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Donald C. Jackson, Lafayette College Conevery Bolton Valencius, Boston College San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Dam sparked one of America’s first great environmental ...

San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Dam sparked one of America’s first great environmental controversies. This paper explores John R. Freeman’s work as a consulting engineer and his essential role in championing the city’s Sierra Nevada water supply. Freeman was among the most influential engineers of the Progressive Era and his technocratic vision underlay hydraulic projects throughout North America. For good or ill, Freeman’s vision has had a long and enduring legacy, not just for San Francisco but for dams and watersheds nationwide.

More
December 2019
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//ehs_banner.jpg Environmental History Seminar Climate in Words and Numbers: How Early Americans Recorded Weather in Almanacs 3 December 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Event Cancelled due to weather Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University With support from the Guggenheim Foundation, Joyce Chaplin is compiling a database of manuscript ...

With support from the Guggenheim Foundation, Joyce Chaplin is compiling a database of manuscript notes about weather in early American almanacs, 1647-1820. Her talk focuses on how people recorded weather in numbers (including degrees Fahrenheit) and in words, ranging from “dull” to “elegant!” These notations are significant as records of a period of climate change, the Little Ice Age, also as records of how people made sense of and coped with that climatic disruption.

More
January 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg Environmental History Seminar “Wealth and Beauty in Trees”: State Forestry and the Rehabilitation of Massachusetts’s Economy, Landscape, and Culture, 1898-1919 14 January 2020.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Aaron Ahlstrom, Boston University Comment: Brian Donahue, Brandeis University Massachusetts currently stewards 311,000 acres of state forests and parks. This public land system ...

Massachusetts currently stewards 311,000 acres of state forests and parks. This public land system originated in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century efforts to strengthen the Commonwealth’s economy, rehabilitate its unproductive landscapes, and revitalize its rural communities through scientific forestry. This paper offers new perspectives on Progressive Era conservation by analyzing how state foresters sought to improve rural landscapes’ profitability and aesthetics by educating private woodlot owners, suppressing forest fires and pests, and reforesting newly-acquired public lands.

More
February 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg Environmental History Seminar Northern Exposure: American Military Engineering in the Arctic Circle 11 February 2020.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Gretchen Heefner, Northeastern University Comment: Christopher Capozzola, MIT From the late 1940s through the 1960s, U.S. military engineers constructed and maintained a vast, ...

From the late 1940s through the 1960s, U.S. military engineers constructed and maintained a vast, though largely unknown, infrastructure of military facilities throughout the Far North. This paper examines how these engineers explored the Arctic regions, what sorts of information they accumulated about it, and ultimately what happened to that information once it was released from military constraints.

More
March 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg Environmental History Seminar The Metabolism of Military Forces in the War of Independence: Environmental Contexts and Consequences 10 March 2020.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM David Hsiung, Juniata College Comment: James Rice, Tufts University In order to function during the War of Independence, armies and navies needed multiple sources of ...

In order to function during the War of Independence, armies and navies needed multiple sources of energy—food, firewood, work animals (which also needed food), ammunition, and more. How did specific natural environments, both proximate and distant, fuel those military metabolisms? How did such actions affect those environments in the decades and centuries that followed? This paper is the seed of a book proposal that, when watered by your feedback, will germinate come summertime.

More
April 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg Environmental History Seminar “Contrary to the Rules and Maxims of the Law and Nation”: The Destruction of Colonial New England's River Fisheries 9 April 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Zachary Bennett, Connecticut College Comment: Matthew McKenzie, University of Connecticut Long before industrialization, New Englanders dammed their rivers. The dams that powered saw and ...

Long before industrialization, New Englanders dammed their rivers. The dams that powered saw and grist mills saved farmers days of backbreaking labor, but they also blocked fish migrations which generations of colonists and Indians depended on for food. Although laws protected people’s right to fish, New England colonies refused to enforce them. This inaction destroyed herring and salmon runs, triggering a cascade of ecological changes that ultimately dragged the region into the market economy.

More
More events
Environmental History Seminar Brighton Fair: The Animal Suburb and the Making of Modern Boston 8 October 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Andrew Robichaud, Boston University Zachary Nowak, Harvard University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//ehs_banner.jpg

In the nineteenth century, Brighton, Massachusetts became an iconic center of livestock and animal industries in North America. Andrew Robichaud explores the political and environmental dimensions of the rise and fall of this “animal suburb,” and explains its significance, both then and now.

close

Environmental History Seminar Engineering, Politics, and Dams: John R. Freeman and San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Water Supply 12 November 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Donald C. Jackson, Lafayette College Conevery Bolton Valencius, Boston College Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//ehs_banner.jpg

San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Dam sparked one of America’s first great environmental controversies. This paper explores John R. Freeman’s work as a consulting engineer and his essential role in championing the city’s Sierra Nevada water supply. Freeman was among the most influential engineers of the Progressive Era and his technocratic vision underlay hydraulic projects throughout North America. For good or ill, Freeman’s vision has had a long and enduring legacy, not just for San Francisco but for dams and watersheds nationwide.

close

Environmental History Seminar Climate in Words and Numbers: How Early Americans Recorded Weather in Almanacs 3 December 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Event Cancelled due to weather Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//ehs_banner.jpg

With support from the Guggenheim Foundation, Joyce Chaplin is compiling a database of manuscript notes about weather in early American almanacs, 1647-1820. Her talk focuses on how people recorded weather in numbers (including degrees Fahrenheit) and in words, ranging from “dull” to “elegant!” These notations are significant as records of a period of climate change, the Little Ice Age, also as records of how people made sense of and coped with that climatic disruption.

close

Environmental History Seminar “Wealth and Beauty in Trees”: State Forestry and the Rehabilitation of Massachusetts’s Economy, Landscape, and Culture, 1898-1919 14 January 2020.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Aaron Ahlstrom, Boston University Comment: Brian Donahue, Brandeis University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg

Massachusetts currently stewards 311,000 acres of state forests and parks. This public land system originated in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century efforts to strengthen the Commonwealth’s economy, rehabilitate its unproductive landscapes, and revitalize its rural communities through scientific forestry. This paper offers new perspectives on Progressive Era conservation by analyzing how state foresters sought to improve rural landscapes’ profitability and aesthetics by educating private woodlot owners, suppressing forest fires and pests, and reforesting newly-acquired public lands.

close

Environmental History Seminar Northern Exposure: American Military Engineering in the Arctic Circle Register registration required at no cost 11 February 2020.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Gretchen Heefner, Northeastern University Comment: Christopher Capozzola, MIT Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg

From the late 1940s through the 1960s, U.S. military engineers constructed and maintained a vast, though largely unknown, infrastructure of military facilities throughout the Far North. This paper examines how these engineers explored the Arctic regions, what sorts of information they accumulated about it, and ultimately what happened to that information once it was released from military constraints.

close

Environmental History Seminar The Metabolism of Military Forces in the War of Independence: Environmental Contexts and Consequences Register registration required at no cost 10 March 2020.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM David Hsiung, Juniata College Comment: James Rice, Tufts University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg

In order to function during the War of Independence, armies and navies needed multiple sources of energy—food, firewood, work animals (which also needed food), ammunition, and more. How did specific natural environments, both proximate and distant, fuel those military metabolisms? How did such actions affect those environments in the decades and centuries that followed? This paper is the seed of a book proposal that, when watered by your feedback, will germinate come summertime.

close

Environmental History Seminar “Contrary to the Rules and Maxims of the Law and Nation”: The Destruction of Colonial New England's River Fisheries Register registration required at no cost 9 April 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Zachary Bennett, Connecticut College Comment: Matthew McKenzie, University of Connecticut Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/ehs_banner.jpg

Long before industrialization, New Englanders dammed their rivers. The dams that powered saw and grist mills saved farmers days of backbreaking labor, but they also blocked fish migrations which generations of colonists and Indians depended on for food. Although laws protected people’s right to fish, New England colonies refused to enforce them. This inaction destroyed herring and salmon runs, triggering a cascade of ecological changes that ultimately dragged the region into the market economy.

close