I am an environmental historian of Britain and the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with broad research and teaching interests in Modern Europe and European Empires, colonial and post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa, Australasia, environmental history, history of science and technology, agrarian studies, maritime history, global histories of migration (human and non-human), and food history. I love teaching and thinking about history at the intersection of materials and ideas, where groundwork meets mindwork, where stuff meets politics, where ecology meets ideology.
BIO: I grew up in a rural community at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in upstate South Carolina, where I developed a deep and abiding affection for critters (great and small) and growing things, and a love of stories about the land. I found my way, by happy accident, to another beautiful landscape in New York’s Hudson Valley, where I spent a transformative few years at Bard College, studying literature, anthropology, and history (and oil painting, playwriting, folk dance, theology, and botany!). I spent a year working in New York City, before returning to my home county in South Carolina to teach English in a public high school for two years. A NEH-funded month-long teaching seminar at the Churchill Archives at the University of Cambridge reawakened the scholar in me and I left the next year to begin a Ph.D. in History at the University of Chicago. I did broad coursework in environmental history, history of science, European history, African history, and economic history, and completed research and teaching fields in Britain and the British Empire, European History, Environmental History, and African History. With the support of the Social Sciences Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Nicholson Center for British Studies, I conducted over 18 months of archival research in the UK, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and received my PhD in August 2016. I now hold an A.W. Mellon “Climates and Natures” Postdoctoral Fellowship at UW-Madison’s Center for Humanities, and I teach in the Department of History.
I am currently working on a book manuscript entitled “All Flesh Is Grass: An Eco-Agrarian History of Britain’s Settler Empire,” which follows the journey of European grasses and fodder crops to and across British settlements in New South Wales (Australia), the Cape Colony (South Africa), Sierra Leone, and New Zealand in the long nineteenth century. The story of traveling grass is a story that links the political ambitions and ideological underpinnings of an expanding Empire to the lives of settlers and subjects in agrarian spaces across the globe to the often microscopic ecological processes in fields, forest, pastures, and paddocks. “All Flesh Is Grass” utilizes a new eco-agrarian approach to the history of the British Empire, connecting the ecology of the field, the economy of the farm, and the social politics of farming to the constantly shifting ideologies of imperialism. This provides the conceptual foundation for a new history of the British Empire that considers the political, intellectual, and economic development of the empire alongside its climatic, geological, and biological frameworks. It is a history that merges the often disparate methodologies of environmental history, history of science, and agrarian studies to examine to examine the myriad of factors (climate, soil, waterscapes, biological processes, technology, distance, indigenous encounters, racial ideologies, land policy, political economy) that shaped agrarian expansion in this period. I am also incorporating methodologies from the environmental sciences, specifically paleoecology, paleoclimatology, and GIS analysis, into my own research to enrich the “archive” of human/environment interactions in both the deep and recent past.
The National Archives and Public Record Office (Kew, London)
The Royal Botanic Garden at Kew
The Museum of Natural History (London)
The British Library (London)
The Linnaean Society Archives (London)
The Museum of English Rural Life (Reading)
The National Archives of Scotland (Edinburgh)
The National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh)
African and Commonwealth Library at Rhodes College, Oxford (now housed in the Weston Library)
Senate House Library Special Collections (University of London)
The State Library of New South Wales/Mitchell Library (Sydney)
State Archives and Records Authority (Kingswood, NSW)
The Royal Botanic Garden at Sydney
Caroline Simpson Library (Sydney)
The National Library of South Africa (Cape Town)
Western Cape Provincial Archives and Record Service (Cape Town)
University of Cape Town Special Collections
The National Library of New Zealand (Wellington)
Archives New Zealand (Wellington)
Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand Library (Wellington)