Environmental history came of age as a distinctive field, with its own journal and professional association, in the 1970s and 1980s. A disproportionate number of the most enduringly influential publications from that era centered on or dealt extensively with early America, but from 1990 until fairly recently environmental historians shifted their attention toward other times and places. This essay uses that divergence, together with a recent revival and convergence of early American scholarship with environmental history, to consider an array of issues that are central to both fields and to historical scholarship as a whole, including the relationships between decisions about periodization, scale, and theories of causation; the nature of power within and between societies; and the possibilities and limits of interdisciplinary scholarship. The essay concludes with considerations of what we might better understand about environmental history as a whole in light of recent early Americanist scholarship and what we might learn about early America by attending more closely to the broader field of environmental history, as well as with reflections on the creative tensions between modern, premodern, Americanist, and global histories. This article is based on the 2017 WMQ-EMSI workshop, “Early American Environmental Histories.”

Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 401-432
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.