Sunday, August 22, 2010

A long awaited essay ...

Four years ago over a weekend in early June, I participated in an NSF-sponsored workshop with several colleagues at the University of Maryland.  Our task was to review drafts of essays that each of us had written during the previous six months which we hoped to pull together into a book tentatively entitled The Ties that Bind: Environment and Technology in History, which was being prepared under the auspices of Enivrotech, a special interest group of the Society for the History of Technology, which I had co-founded with historian Sarah Pritchard in Munich, Germany in August 2000The workshop was quite wonderful, and then it was left to each of us to finalize our essays, have the collection's editors Steve Cutcliffe and Marty Reuss carefully edit and critique them, and eventually get the final manuscript prepared for press.

Projects such as these often take a very long time, and this one was no exception.  But, at long last, the book has finally been released.  The title changed a bit, now Illusory Boundary: Environment and Technology in History, but the initial purpose of the book has not changed at all.  Anne Greene, author of Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America, suggests the importance of Illusory Boundary: "An exciting collection of essays elucidating the 'Envirotech' approach to history. This important work not only challenges a traditional nature-technology dualism, but stakes new intellectual ground. It demonstrates the meaning of 'Envirotech' through essays that address matters of historical interest and debate -- industrialization, the American West, cities, food, agriculture, science. This volume is an original, substantial, and significant accomplishment."

I am flattered that my contribution, "Understanding the Place of Humans in Nature," is the lead essay in the book.  I can hardly wait to get my hands on it and read the other contributions.


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