Category Archives: Recent Publications

Defending Nation, Defending Nature? Militarized Landscapes and Military Environmentalism in Britain, France, and the United States – Peter Coates, Tim Cole, Marianna Dudley, and Christ Pearson

Published in  Environmental History 16 (July 2011), pp. 456-91

This is a well polished overview of an important aspect of environmental impacts of military establishments in peacetime.  It points readers to their longer, more varied study: Chris Pearson, Peter Coates and Tim Cole, eds.,Militarized Landscapes: From Gettysburg to Salisbury Plain (London: Continuum, 2010).  My students have found this article to be a fascinating introduction to military environmental management on two continents.  —-Richard Tucker

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Warfare and Ecological Destruction in Early Fourteenth-Century British Isles – Philip Slavin

Published in Environmental History 19: 3 (July 2014)

Abstract: The environmental, economic, and demographic consequences of Anglo-Scottish warfare in the early fourteenth century were far reaching. This article looks at the extent of environmental damage brought about by the ongoing warfare, primarily between England and Scotland from 1296 to 1328. The conflict coincided with a series of ecological and biological crises, most notably the Great European Famine of 1315–17 and the Great Bovine Pestilence of 1319–20. As I argue, the armed conflict aggravated the crisis further and caused immense damage within the war zones of the British Isles.

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Range Wars: The Environmental Contest for White Sands Missile Range – Ryan H. Edgington

From the Introduction: “In March 2009 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service named the massive White Sands Missile Range in south-central New Mexico the recipient of the 2007 Military Conservation Partner Award. … The now more than sixty-year-old missile range does deserve recognition. … By 1980 White Sands had conducted more than sixty thousands missile tests. Wildlife conservationists have found a most unexpected value in a place the average environmentalist might deem a military wasteland. Some even consider the military reservation a de facto wildlife preserve.”

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Never Such Weather Known in These Seas: Climatic Fluctuations and the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century, 1652-1674 – Dagomar Degroot

Abstract: In the North Sea region, the so-called Little Ice Age reached a cold, stormy nadir between 1560 and 1720, with a three-decade interruption of warmer, more tranquil weather between 1629 and 1662. Newly considered ship logbooks, diaries and other documentary evidence suggest that a rise in the frequency of easterly winds accompanied the coldest phases of the Little Ice Age, and these decadal climatic trends had consequences for regional warfare. Fought between 1652 and 1674, the Anglo-Dutch wars at sea were contested in a period of transition between decade-scale climatic regimes and consequently provide useful case studies into the relationship between meteorological trends and early modern military operations. In the first war, persistent westerly winds born of a warmer climate frequently helped crews aboard larger English warships set the terms of most naval engagements. However, during the second and third wars more frequent easterlies stimulated by a cooler climate granted critical advantages to Dutch fleets that had adopted elements of English tactics and technology. Ultimately, the changing climate of the Little Ice Age must be considered alongside human agency and the political, economic or cultural influences typically examined by military historians to explain the course of early modern warfare.

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Natural Defense: U.S. Air Force Origins of the Department of Defense Natural Resources Conservation Program – Jean A. Mansavage

The Preface states, “This work relates the story of why the U.S. Air Force took the lead among the military services in developing a comprehensive conservation program and how efforts by the Air Force laid the groundwork for the Department of Defense natural resources program that followed. The book also situates USAF/DOD conservation efforts within the context of U.S. military environmental engagement across the decades, and within the broader scope of the emerging conservation/environmental movement in the post-World War II United States.”

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Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters – Kate Brown

As the ASEH Newsletter reports, “Brown draws on declassified documents and oral histories of government officials as well as workers and their families in the US and the former Soviet Union, capturing the shared experiences of the Soviet and American experience with the production of a nuclear arsenal. Beyond the major accidents, Brown reveals how everyday operations exposed workers and their families to toxic radioisotopes. The cloak of secrecy that permeated the Cold War facilitated reckless attitudes towards nuclear weapons and wastes produced in both the US and the USSR. The very nature of radioactive materials limited tracing back to sources thus producing insidious exposures in workers and their families. Both wastes and exposures can be invisible in nature and invisible in terms of social action. Yet Brown rediscovers their traces in the bodies of the exposed.”

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Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism – Jacob Darwin Hamblin

“With this book Jacob Hamblin makes a major contribution to our understanding of the decisive role of military priorities and military funding in the shaping of a wide range of environmental sciences. As a contribution to the histiography of science as conditioned by its political, ideological, social, and financial contexts, this book shows how the ideologies and international institutions of the Cold Ear shaped the rise of fundamental environmental sciences.” From review by Richard Tucker in Environmental History (January 2015).

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Warfare and the Environment in the Ancient World – J. Donald Hughes

Published in the Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World (Brian Campbell and Lawrence A. Tritle, eds., 2013)

A broad introductory survey of the environmental dynamics and degradation of warfare in the Fertile Crescent and the classical Mediterranean world from the early Mesopotamian city states through the Roman Empire.

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Paths of Infection: The First World War and the Origins of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic – Mark Osborne Humphries

Published in War in History 21: 1 (2013)

Abstract: The origin site for the 1918 influenza pandemic which killed more than 50 million people worldwide has been hotly debated. While the mid-western United States, France, and China have all been identified as potential candidates by medical researchers, the military context for the pandemic has been all but ignored. Conversely, military historians have paid little attention to a deadly disease which underlines the reciprocal relationship between battlefield and home front. This paper re-examines the debate about the origins and diffusion of the 1918 flu within the context of global war, bridging gaps between social, medical, and military history in the process. A multidisciplinary perspective combined with new research in British and Canadian archives reveals that the 1918 flu most likely emerged first in China in the winter of 1917–18, diffusing across the world as previously isolated populations came into contact with one another on the battlefields of Europe. Ethnocentric fears – both official and popular – facilitated its spread along military pathways that had been carved out across the globe to sustain the war effort on the Western Front.

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A War for Oil in the Chaco, 1932-35 – Stephen Cote

Published in Environmental History 18: 4 (2013)

Abstract: Beginning in the late 1920s, Bolivia’s growing need for petroleum to fuel its mining sector and urban centers led the country on a policy of expansion into the Chaco Boreal, a torrid expanse claimed by both Bolivia and Paraguay. The two countries fought a three-year war over the territory in the 1930s. Postwar nationalist narratives and popular views of the conflict remain clouded in conspiracy theories involving foreign actors that ignore Bolivia’s motives and confuse oil’s role. Emphasizing environmental aspects of the conflict helps us to better understand the underlying causes, the conduct, and the outcomes of the war. The conflict highlights the importance of oil in shaping Latin American social and natural landscapes, and it reveals new relationships between the natural world and collective violence.

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Transforming the Forests of a Counterfeit Nation: Japan’s ‘Manchu Nation’ in Northeast China – Patrick J. Caffrey

Published in Environmental History 18: 2 (April 2013)

Abstract: In the 1930s, the Japanese army used forest management in its effort to transform the puppet Manchu Nation (Manchukuo) it had created in Northeast China into the cornerstone of a pan-Asian bloc. The bloc was intended to preserve the Japanese Empire’s security in a world sundered by global depression and rising tensions. The army turned forest management away from destructive practices toward sustained yield management, but within a few years they reversed course when Japan’s widening aggressions in pursuit of regional autarky pushed it into a desperate war with the United States and its allies. Even as the Japanese plundered Manchuria’s forests, they continued to promote tree planting in populated areas to support the fictions that Manchukuo was a nation serving its people and that Manchukuo’s so-called ally—the Japanese Empire—would prevail in its crusade to save Asia from Western imperialist domination. The arc of that crusade shared the trajectory of Manchukuo’s forest management. Japan’s wars ended in 1945 with the amputation of the territorial gains it had made over the previous fifty years and the devastation of the peoples and the forests under its control.

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Trees Versus Lives: Reckoning Military Success and the Ecological Effects of Chemical Defoliation During the Vietnam War – Neil S. Oatsvall

Published in Environment and History 19: 4 (November 2013)

Abstract: During the Vietnam War, the United States military declared war not just on Vietnamese peoples, but also on nature itself. Operation Ranch Hand served as the U.S. military’s answer to the Vietnamese Communist appropriation of the natural world into their war plans, as U.S. planes dumped nearly twenty million gallons of chemical herbicides on Vietnamese fields and forests. Examining and comparing the military and ecological effects of Ranch Hand, this essay assesses the military success of chemical defoliation by looking at military appraisals and early U.S. scientific studies of defoliated areas. Planners expected defoliation to provide a distinct military advantage and frequently made claims that they were trading trees for lives – environmental destruction ostensibly saved the lives of U.S. servicemen. Instead, defoliation’s military effects proved very ambiguous and the use of defoliants should be considered a failure in some ways. In trying to characterise defoliation as either a military success or failure, the essay also questions what it means for a piece of technology to succeed or fail and ultimately concludes that the answer to that question depends on the goals for its use, not the technology itself.

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Mobilizing Nature: The Environmental History of War and Militarization in Modern France – Chris Pearson

From the Introduction: “The trenches [of World War I] were part of a far longer and geographically dispersed environmental history of militarized environments in modern French history. In this book I trace the creation, maintenance, and contestation of these militarized environments from the establishment of France’s first large-scale and permanent army camp on the Champagne plains in 1857, to military environmentalism in the first decade of the twenty-first century.”

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Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War – Megan Kate Nelson

Kathryn Morse’s review in Environment and History, August 2014:

“Americans don’t like ruins; they rebuild, memorialize, and forget. Megan Kate Nelson’s cultural and environmental history of the ruins left by the Civil War argues persuasively that physical ruins – of cities, homes, forests and soldiers’ bodies – mattered deeply during and just after the Civil War, but that the disappearance of those ruins and bodies over time reveals much of the penchant within American culture to erase the most jarring physical evidence of violence from the nation’s public and visual landscape, and in some cases, from history itself. This creative, thoughtful, detailed work combines the history of a powerful idea – ruination – with stories of real physical places and compelling individual lives transformed by war.”

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World War II, the Cold War, and Natural Resources, four papers in Global Environment #10

“Introduction: War and Natural Resources in History,” Simo Laakkonen and Richard Tucker

“Big Science and the Enchantment of Growth in Latin America,” Nicolás Cuvi

“The Vulnerability of Nations: Food Security in the Aftermath of World War II,” Jacob Darwin Hamblin

“World War II and the ‘Great Acceleration’ of North Atlantic Fisheries,” Paul Holm

“The Environmental Impacts of Japan’s Occupation of West Malaysia (1942-45) and Its Socio- Economic Implications,” Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells.

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An Environmental History of the UK Defence Estate, 1945 to the Present – Marianna Dudley

Dr. Marianna Dudley’s book explores the environmental history of the British military through a comparative framework of five key sites in England and Wales. The military presence at these places, it is claimed, has protected them from more damaging land uses such as intensive agriculture, urban sprawl and industrial development. The book examines such claims and explores how and why the military has embraced nature conservation policies. The ‘greening’ of the MOD and ‘khaki conservation’ are critically examined in an historical context. The emergence of the training landscapes as protected spaces is contrasted with calls for greater access, and at times, public pressure for their release. The volume draws to attention the environmental impact of preparations for war, and brings sites of training to the fore alongside better known military landscapes like battlefields and conflict zones. Each chapter is based in a single site, giving prominence to local meanings and landscape character but allowing the overarching themes to connect throughout, tracing an environmental history of the UK Defence Estates that is firmly grounded in the British countryside.

Find more info on this book here.

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