The Origin Of The Discipline

The first scientific meeting on the matter, the International Symposium on Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, was held at Princeton University, New Jersey, in 1955, under the sponsorship of the WennerGren Foundation for Anthropological Research. It was co-chaired by Carl O. Sauer, Marston Bates, and Lewis Mumford. Inspired by George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature, it served to identify a community of scholars as involved in a distinctive field of study. The following year, the contributions were compiled and published as a two-volume work with the same title, edited by William L. Thomas.

The American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) was founded in 1977, and launched the journal Environmental Review. In 1990, it continued as Environmental History Review and, in 1996, was renamed Environmental History. The first meeting of the society took place at the University of California-Irvine in 1982. The first European Workshop on European Environmental History was held in 1988, in Bad Homburg, Germany, under the sponsorship of the Werner Reimers Foundation. It resulted in the publication of the book The Silent Countdown: Essays in European Environmental History (1990), edited by Peter Brimblecombe and Christian Pfister. From then on, environmental history matured as a discipline and was included in the curricula of various universities, although it has not yet completely reached a fully-recognized status.

Roderick Nash published Wilderness and the American Mind in 1967, a book with a great public impact that offers a literary-style examination of the evolution of the concept of wilderness in North America, from an aversion to a wild hostile nature, to an attraction for a wilderness in process of disappearing. He examines environmental thinking in the United States from early settlement to the beginning of the 19th century, resolving the differences between New World and Old World conceptions of nature, and the formation of an American conception of nature. Nash details this progression, adopting a regional perspective, in response to a historical context of national introspection. Nash consolidated the general use of the term "environmental history" after he developed a course with this title at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Making of the English Landscape was published by William George Hoskins in 1955, a precursor of the dozens of titles edited between 1955 and 1985, pioneering the study of landscape history in England and the world. Through the examination of the overlying time layers hidden in the English landscape, Hoskins gathered information on the cultural features of past societies and their ways of interacting with their environment, which could explain how people related to the landscapes according to possible use and physical limitations.

Clarence Glacken published, in 1967, Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought, from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century. This comprehensive work studies the history of Western thought, until the 18th century, from the point of view of the mutual influence between nature and culture. Thus, Glacken identifies three main themes of reflection about history: the question of if Earth was created deliberately, the influence of the physical environment on the character of the peoples and human culture, and the extent that change is induced by human activity.

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