On the evening of Tuesday, 10 October, the Massachusetts Historical Society will host a panel discussion on the topic “What Is Environmental History?” The panelists will be:
- Brian Donahue of the Brandeis University American Studies Department and the Harvard Forest. Donahue is author of The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord (Yale University Press, 2004).
- John E. Ebel, Geology & Geophysics Department, Boston College. Among his studies is "A New Look at the 1755 Cape Ann, Massachusetts, Earthquake."
- David R. Foster, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University. His books include Thoreau's Country: Journey Through a Transformed Landscape and (with J. O'Keefe) New England Forests Through Time.
- Anthony N. Penna, Northeastern University History Department, moderator.
British settlers had been altering the Middlesex County landscape for over a century before the battle of 1775, cutting down trees, plowing fields, and introducing new fauna. Native Americans had left their mark on the land as well in earlier times. And in the decades after independence, the region's farming economy crashed, causing people to let trees cover a lot of previously farmed land. Then the population and economy boomed, converting many other fields and meadows into house lots. It's an ongoing challenge for the Minute Man National Historical Park is to convey a sense of the landscape of 1775 without violating our modern sense of what looks pretty and historic. (In other words, we like the trees that colonial farmers cut down.)
The M.H.S. panel discussion is scheduled to start at 5:15, and is open to the public. Afterwards the society will serve a light buffet supper; leave a message at 617-646-0540 if you want to reserve space for food so they know how much to order.
(Aerial photo of the Assabet River in Concord above by Steve Dunwell, creator of Massachusetts: A Scenic Journey and other books from Back Bay Press.)