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Edmund P. Russell

Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Distinguished Professor of United States History
Primary office:
3608 Wescoe Hall

Environmental history; American history; global history; history of technology and science.

Research Profile:

Professor Russell (B.A. Stanford 1980; Ph.D. Michigan 1993) seeks to understand the intertwined histories of people and their environments in the United States and globally.

One of Professor Russell’s research topics has been the environmental history of warfare. His first book examined the co-evolution of chemical warfare and pest control in the United States (War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring, Cambridge, 2001). With Richard Tucker, he co-edited the first collection of essays on the environmental history of war (Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, Oregon State, 2004).

Professor Russell currently studies ways in which people have shaped history by altering the traits of non-human populations (that is, by affecting their evolution). He has found, for example, that Native Americans helped catalyze the British Industrial Revolution by developing extra-long cotton fiber that happened to be suitable for spinning by machine.

Professor Russell’s research has won the Rachel Carson Prize, Edelstein Prize, Forum for the History of Science in America Prize, and Leopold-Hidy Prize. With John McNeill, he co-edits the Cambridge University Press series in Environment and History.

Recent Publications:

  • Edmund Russell, Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011).
  • Edmund Russell, James Allison, Thomas Finger, John K. Brown, Brian Balogh, and W. Bernard Carlson, “The Nature of Power: Synthesizing the History of Technology and Environmental History,” Technology and Culture 52 (April 2011):  246-259.
  • Edmund Russell, “Can Organisms Be Technology?” in Stephen Cutcliffe and Martin Reuss (editors), The Illusory Boundary (Charlottesville:  University of Virginia Press, 2010), 249-262.

Teaching Profile:

Professor Russell teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in American history, environmental history, history of technology, history of food, and history of science. He has won three teaching awards.

Professor Russell encourages his Ph.D. advisees to take creative approaches to the past. They have written dissertations on the global environmental history of Coca-Cola, links between American agriculture and British industrialization in the nineteenth century, energy development on Native American reservations in the twentieth century, domestic animals in the early American republic, conservation in American agriculture after World War II, and neural impacts of lead poisoning in American cities. He encourages those interested in studying American, environmental, technological, global, or interdisciplinary history at the Ph.D. level to contact him about opportunities at the University of Kansas.

Recent Courses:

  • HIST/EVRN 103: Environment and History
  • HIST 407: History of Science in the United States
  • HIST 696: Seminar in the History of Food
  • HIST 806: Studies in Global Environmental History
  • HIST 879: Colloquium on North American Environmental History

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