I have published the following books in English:
When scholars survey the environmental history or the modern era, they usually impose analytical categories by fiat: nation-states, actors, periods, issues. This monograph is different: it works from specific places, events or artefacts that capture a quintessential environmental challenge and then discusses how people, corporations, governments, and environments developed routines to deal with these challenges. The result is a dynamic, fluid history where events, tropes, law, new technologies and much else accumulate in the manner of sediments in a river. The insights matter beyond the realms of historical research. Over the course of modern history, humans have built a growing environmental legacy that shapes our engagement with environmental challenges, and we can make better environmental decisions if we take this legacy into account.
The Vortex. An Environmental History of the Modern World (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023.
This book provides an overview of the making of environmentalism in Germany. Written at a time when admiration for German achievements ran high, it aimed to explore the forces that pushed for change and the interplay between activism, policymaking and changes in culture and life. It also explores what this history might mean for the future of German environmentalism (as it turned out, the cautious outlook was a really good idea). At the same time, the book seeks to provide a template for a new history of environmentalism everywhere: analytical, actor-focused, and without teleological certainties that we are on track towards a green happy ending of history.
The Greenest Nation? A New History of German Environmentalism (Boston: MIT Press, 2014).
This is a study on the making of environmental regulation. Comparing German and American approaches, the book traces how states and cities fought against coal smoke from the late nineteenth century until the 1960s, when the problem gradually faded into the background as other invisible pollutants gained more attention. In the United States, civic groups and mechanical engineers forged an alliance during the Progressive Era that achieved significant reductions in urban air pollution and reached its apogee in the 1940s with spectacular anti-smoke campaigns in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. In contrast, German authorities failed to build an effective alliance and stuck to improvised measures on a case-by-case basis far into the 20th century. It was not until the 1950s that some West German authorities pushed for more aggressive steps, a shift that laid the groundwork for a remarkably effective campaign against industrial pollution since the 1960s. In the United States, the municipal tradition of smoke inspection turned into an obstacle to reforms when the call for state and regional policies grew in the 1950s and 1960s. Unable to improve policies incrementally, the stage was set for the federal takeover of U.S. air pollution policy in 1970.
The Age of Smoke. Environmental Policy in Germany and the United States, 1880-1970 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009).
This book provides a synthetic overview on the German conservation movement during the Nazi era. While discussing the obvious question about ideological overlaps and accomplices, it also raises a question that was previously studied only rarely: who benefitted from the alliance of conservation interests with the Nazis? It shows that while the ideological bridge between both camps remained fragile, there was an eminently one-sided outburst of pro-Nazi sentiment among conservationists after the passage of a landmark 1935 National Conservation Law. For a few feverish years, conservationists sought to tease out the new opportunities and showed scant if any awareness of the perils while achievements remained far below potential. Even after 1945, the myth of a pro-conservation Nazi regime lingered, which made for a significant burden for post-war environmentalism. Based on a broad range of previously unused sources, the book provides insights into conservation work in authoritarian regimes.
The Green and the Brown. A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany (Studies in Environment and History, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
For a full list of my English-language articles please click here. The following is a compilation of the most significant academic publications.
"Land," Jeannie Whayne (ed.), Oxford Handbook for Agricultural History (in print).
"The Revolt of the Chemists: Biofuels, Agricultural Overproduction, and the Chemurgy Movement in New Deal America," History and Technology 37 (2021): 429-445.
"In Search of a Dust Bowl Narrative for the Twenty-First Century," Great Plains Quarterly 40 (2020): 161-168.
"The Apocalyptic Moment: Writing about Environmental Alarmism," Frank Uekötter (ed.), Exploring Apocalyptica. Coming to Terms with Environmental Alarmism (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), 1-11.
"Grassroots Apocalypticism: The Great Upcoming Air Pollution Disaster in Postwar America," Frank Uekötter (ed.), Exploring Apocalyptica. Coming to Terms with Environmental Alarmism (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), 36-48.
"The Sum of All German Fears: Forest Death, Environmental Activism, and the Media in 1980s Germany," Frank Uekötter (ed.), Exploring Apocalyptica. Coming to Terms with Environmental Alarmism (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), 75-106 (together with Kenneth Anders).
"Entangled Ecologies. Outlines of a Green History of Two or More Germanys," Frank Bösch (ed.), A History Shared and Divided. East and West Germany since the 1970s (New York: Berghahn Books, 2018), 147-190.
"Memories in Mud: The Environmental Legacy of the Great War," Richard P. Tucker et al. (eds.), Environmental Histories of the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 278-295.
"Myths, Big Myths and Global Environmentalism," Stefan Berger, Holger Nehring (eds.), The History of Social Movements in Global Perspective. A Survey (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 419-447.
"City Meets Country: Recycling Ideas and Realities on German Sewage Farms," Journal for the History of Environment and Society 1 (2016): 89-107.
"The Meaning of Moving Sand. Towards a Dust Bowl Mythology," Global Environment 8 (2015): 349-379.
"Recollections of Rubber," Dominik Geppert, Frank Lorenz Müller (eds.), Imperial Sites of Memory. Commemorating Colonial Rule in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), 243-265.
"Why Panaceas Work. Recasting Science, Knowledge, and Fertilizer Interests in German Agriculture," Agricultural History 88 (2014): 68-86.
"Introduction: The Social Functions of Ignorance," Frank Uekoetter, Uwe Lübken (eds.), Managing the Unknown. Essays on Environmental Ignorance (New York, 2014), 1-11 (together with Uwe Lübken).
"Ignorance is Strength. Science-based Agriculture and the Merits of Incomplete Knowledge," Frank Uekoetter, Uwe Lübken (eds.), Managing the Unknown. Essays on Environmental Ignorance (New York, 2014), 122-139.
"Rise, Fall, and Permanence. Issues in the Environmental History of the Global Plantation," Frank Uekötter (ed.), Comparing Apples, Oranges, and Cotton. Environmental Perspectives on the Global Plantation (Frankfurt 2014), 7-25.
"Matter Matters. Towards a More 'Substantial' Global History," World History Bulletin 29:2 (Fall 2013): 6-8. Reprinted in Ross E. Dunn, Laura J. Mitchell, and Kerry Ward (eds.) The New World History. A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016), 434-440.
"Farming and Not Knowing. Agnotology Meets Environmental History," Dolly Jørgensen, Finn Arne Jørgensen, Sara B. Pritchard (eds.), New Natures. Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies (Pittsburgh, 2013), 37-50.
"Conservation. America’s Environmental Modernism?" Alan Lesoff, Thomas Welskopp (eds.), Fractured Modernity. America Confronts Modern Times, 1890s to 1940s (Munich, 2012), 81-94.
"Fukushima, Europe, and the Authoritarian Nature of Nuclear Technology," Environmental His¬tory 17:2 (April 2012): 277-284.
"Affluence and Sustainability. Environmental History and the History of Consumption," Hartmut Berghoff, Uwe Spiekermann (eds.), Decoding Modern Consumer Societies (New York, 2012), 111-124.
"Fukushima and the Lessons of History. Remarks on the Past and Future of Nuclear Power," Jens Kersten et al., Europe After Fukushima. German Perspectives on the Future of Nuclear Power (RCC Perspectives 1 , 9-31).
"The Enigma of Mobility. Reflections on the Arab Revolutions," Transfers 1:2 (Summer 2011): 150-157.
"Consigning Environmentalism to History? Remarks on the Place of the Environmental Move-ment in Modern History," RCC Perspectives 7 (2011).
"The Magic of One. Reflections on the Pathologies of Monoculture," RCC Perspectives 2 (2011).
"Thinking Big. The Broad Outlines of a Burgeoning Field," Frank Uekoetter (ed.), The Turning Points of Environmental History (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), 1-12.
"The Knowledge Society," ibid., 132-145.
"Total War? Administering Germany’s Environment in Two World Wars," Charles Closmann (ed.), War and the Environment. Military Destruction in the Modern Age (College Station, 2009), 92-111.
"A Twisted Road to Earth Day. Air Pollution as an Issue of Social Movements after World War II," Michael Egan, Jeff Crane (eds.), Natural Protest. Essays on the History of American Environmentalism (New York, 2009), 163-183.
"Green Nazis? Reassessing the Environmental History of Nazi Germany," German Studies Re-view 30 (2007): 267-287.
"Native Plants: A Nazi Obsession?" Landscape Research 32 (2007): 379-383.
"Why Care About Dirt? Transatlantic Perspectives on the History of Agriculture," Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 39 (2006): 65-77.
"Know Your Soil. Transitions in Farmers’ and Scientists’ Knowledge in the Twentieth Century," John McNeill, Verena Winiwarter (eds.), Soils and Societies. Perspectives from Environ¬mental History (Cambridge, 2006), 322-340.
"The Strange Career of the Ringelmann Smoke Chart," Environmental Monitoring and Assess-ment 106 (2005): 11-26.
"The Merits of the Precautionary Principle. Controlling Automobile Exhausts in Germany and the United States before 1945," E. Melanie DuPuis (ed.), Smoke and Mirrors. The Politics and Culture of Air Pollution (New York and London, 2004), 119-153.
"Solving Air Pollution Problems Once and For All. The Potential and the Limits of Technologi-cal Fixes," Lisa Rosner (ed.) The Technological Fix (New York, 2004), 155-174.
"The Old Conservation History – and the New. An Argument for Fresh Perspectives on an Established Topic," Historical Social Research 29:3 (2004): 171-191 (Special Issue "The Frontiers of Environmental History").
"Divergent Responses to Identical Problems. Businessmen and the Smoke Nuisance in Germany and the United States, 1880-1917," Business History Review 73 (1999): 641-676. Reprinted in Edward J. Balleisen (ed.), Business Regulation. Vol. 3: Taking Stock of Modern Regulation. A Versatile Methodological Toolkit (Cheltenham, 2015), pp. 727-762.
During my time at the University of Birmingham, I recorded short videos on a broad range of historical topics. Entitled “Contemporary History Interventions”, the series includes 44 videos recorded between 2021 and 2023. For the playlist, please click here.
I am the author of numerous books and articles in German (for a German-language overview of my publications, please click here). I have also published a few articles and two books in languages that I cannot read, and I will be glad to talk to people speaking Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or Hebrew, who can tell me what I wrote.