Bill Cronon on Environmental History

Whenever anyone asks me about what era or ‘typology’ of history I most enjoy studying I generally respond with two small words: ‘environmental history’.

Those of you who regularly read my posts will know that environmental history forms a profound base in my interests and my study and indeed I hope to write many more posts specifically dealing with environmental history problems and development as my reading, research and knowledge base develops.

As a subject area it is often difficult to define environmental history and certainly there are disagreements (something that historians are very good at doing) as to how best to define the sub-discipline. There is much cross-over with geographical study as well as, depending on the interests of the researcher, the biological sciences, ecology, environmental economics, agriculture, marine science, geology, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, arboriculture and forestry, soil science and a host of other disciplines and subdisciplines. However, in essence, environmental historians see human beings as playing an active part within ‘the natural world’ and being active members within their environments. Environmental history is a study of interaction, between humans and their environments over time. Environmental historians are interested in how humans shape their environments and how they are in turn shaped by it.

Bill Cronon, an eminent American environmental historian and former President of the American Historical Association, explains in this short clip how he sees environmental history.

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