The early American past is overdue for sustained attention as a distinctive stage in environmental history. As we denizens of the Anthropocene look toward some kind of post-fossil fuel stage of history, looking back at the pre-industrial era of American history would help us to identify what was at stake in making a transition into a carboniferous energy regime, and therefore what may be at stake in transitioning out of it. For that reason, the environment is a potent and relevant historical context, perhaps more so than the social, political, and cultural contexts that have driven the scholarship in the field of early American history over the last forty years. Much of that historiography has used the American Revolution as pivot or terminus. But the industrial revolution and its crucial turn toward carbon-based energy was in the end even more revolutionary as a historical watershed. Indeed, the industrial revolution, the “other revolution,” represents one of the greatest opportunities for early Americanists who are interested in environmental history, which should at this point mean all of us.


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pp. 285-308
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