Environmental History

At any given time, about six to ten students in the Ph.D. program at Georgetown are writing, or planning to write, dissertations in environmental history. Several more are preparing minor fields in environmental history. All these students work under the supervision of Professor John McNeill or Professor Dagomar Degroot, normally in conjunction with other professors.   Current students are working on dissertation projects ranging from typhoons in late imperial China to uranium mining in the Cold War decades. Environmental history students work in almost every geographical field offered by Georgetown’s history graduate program, but at present are especially numerous in the transregional, Middle East, and Latin American fields. Typically, environmental history students rely on the regional expertise of other History Department faculty for courses, seminars, and field preparation to complement their environmental history education.

Other professors in the History Department also take part in environmental history training or include environmental history perspectives in their scholarly work. Examples include Prof. Gabor Agoston (Ottoman Empire), Prof. Carol Benedict (China), Prof. Kate De Luna (Africa), Prof. Meredith McKittrick (Africa), Prof. James Millward (China and Central Asia), Prof. Jordan Sand (Japan), Prof. Judith Tucker (Middle East), and Prof. John Tutino (Mexico).

Each year the History Department awards a Ph.D. fellowship in environmental history. This fellowship, renewable for five years, is unique at Georgetown in that it carries no service obligations. Environmental history students work as teaching assistants only if they choose to do so.  Most have chosen to do so, either in the History Department or in the Environmental Studies Program.  

At Georgetown, graduate students in environmental history have access to the rich institutional resources of Washington, D. C. Through workshops and online resources provided by Lauinger Library, they can learn how to use digital tools that have become increasingly important within environmental scholarship, such as Geographic Information Systems. Environmental history students may also pursue unique volunteer opportunities in the history of climate change, which could include working with scientists and historians to expand the Climate History Network or HistoricalClimatology.com.

The environmental history program has a strong tradition of mutual support. Regular workshops provide opportunities for students to present their works-in-progress for informal review, discuss professional development, and learn from each other and faculty. These gatherings frequently include researchers from other universities in the Washington area, as well as visiting scholars.

 

Current students who can tell you what it is like to study environmental history at Georgetown include Robynne Mellor and Faisal Husain.  For additional information on current environmental students and their research interests, click here.

To date ten students have completed Ph.D.s in environmental history at Georgetown. They are:

Linda Ivey (2003), Associate Professor, California State University – East Bay.  Linda wrote her dissertation on a farming community near Monterey in California (late 19th and 20th c).

George Vrtis (2004), Associate Professor, Carleton College.  George’s dissertation was about gold mining in 19th century Colorado.

Peter Engelke (2011), Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council.  Peter’s dissertation was on city planning in Munich in the 1960s-1980s.

Marc Landry (2012), Assistant Professor, University of New Orleans.  Marc’s dissertation dealt with hydroelectric development in the Alps, c. 1890-1960.

Andrea Williams (2013), Director of International Studies, Colorado State University.  Andrea's dissertation concerned French scientific forestry in the nineteenth century and its application in southern France, in French Algeria, and in Ottoman Anatolia.

Erin Stewart Mauldin (2014), Assistant Professor, Samford University.  Erin’s dissertation was on agriculture in the southern U.S. before, during, and after the Civil War.

Chris Gratien (2015), now holding a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University, will be an assistant professor of environmental history at the University of Virginia starting in 2017.  Chris’s dissertation was on the Çukurova (c. 1850-1950), a coastal plain in southern Turkey.  His principal adviser was Dr. Judith Tucker.

Elizabeth Williams (2015), now holding a post-doctoral fellowship at Brown University, will start at the University of Massachussetts-Lowell in 2017.  Elizabeth’s dissertation was on efforts and discourses surrounding agricultural modernization in greater Syria, c. 1870-1940.  Her principal adviser was Dr. Judith Tucker.

Alan Roe (2016) holds a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in environmental studies at William & Mary College.  Alan's dissertation was about Soviet national parks.

Graham Pitts (2016) holds a five-year post-doctoral fellowship in international studies at North Carolina State University.

Prospective students interested in learning more about doing Ph.D. work in environmental history at Georgetown should contact John McNeill and Dagomar Degroot.

 

 

These two books represent recent student-professor collaboration in the Georgetown environmental history program.