Early Americanists Respond | June 16-17, 2022
“Cutting the sugar cane.” Found in William Clark, [Views of sugar production on Antigua], [London: 1833?]. Image shows enslaved Black laborers cutting and loading sugar cane. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library. SOURCE
“mines dargent et de la facon quon le tire.” Found in Samuel de Champlain, Brief discours des choses plus remarquables que Samuel Champlain de Brouage á reconneues aux Indes occidentales [France?: 1602?]. Image shows enslaved Indigenous laborers working a silver mine near Mexico City. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library. SOURCE
[Plan of a farm or plantation]. Found in José Mariano da Conceiçao Velloso, O fazendeiro do Brazil ... Tomo II [Lisbon: 1800]. Image shows a plan of an indigo farm including the regulation of water necessary to process indigo. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library. SOURCE
"Louisiane." Found in Antoine-Simon le Page du Pratz, Histoire de Louisiane…[Paris: 1758]. Image is a map of the Louisiana region in the eighteenth century, including the Mississippi River and its delta. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library. . SOURCE
"Luminous Arch." Found in Bernard O’Reilly, esq., Greenland, the Adjacent Seas, and the North-west Passage to the Pacific Ocean, Illustrated in a Voyage to Davis’s Strait… [London: Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1818]. Image shows the effect of light creating an arch over an icy coast, a ship, men in boats, and seals. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library. SOURCE
It might be easy to think that the current climate crisis erupted in the twentieth century. But scholars of early America know that its roots lie deeper. European colonists throughout the Americas fantasized about their ability to alter the climate, often through large-scale landscape transformations. The term “Plantationocene” has been proposed to link early modern extractive colonial practices and Atlantic chattel slavery to long-term climate change and ecological crises. Britain’s colonists established the land-use patterns that would eventually burn the eastern forests in the seventeenth century, and mined Anthracite coal in Pennsylvania as early 1775. The expansion of meat-centric diets began with Iberian forms of livestock raising and butchery developed in early Spanish America’s farms and cities. Climate science likewise has early American roots, emerging alongside global commercial expansion and colonialism in the early modern period. What we now call the “greenhouse effect” was first identified in the 1850s by New York women’s rights activist Eunice Foote. Early American connections can also be found for some of the proposed solutions. Proponents of plans to reflect sunlight back into space have to contend with histories of the destruction wrought in the western hemisphere by the volcano Tambora in 1816, the “Year without a Summer”; activists working to fight pipeline expansion on Indigenous land contend with the long history of genocidal treaties and the longer history of Indigenous ecological knowledge; and climate cases in U.S. courts hinge on whether the founders implicitly included a right to a stable climate in their framing of the Constitution. As scholars of early America, we aim to respond to the current climate crisis and better understand the depth and ramifications of its roots in the early modern era through a workshop dedicated to the topic. Co-organized by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the Environmental Historians’ Action Collaborative and supported by the Early Modern Studies Institute at the University of Southern California and the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, we hope to trace these connections and to create resources that historians, literary scholars, and others can use to integrate climate crisis history into their teaching and research.
“Cutting the sugar cane.” Found in William Clark, [Views of sugar production on Antigua], [London: 1833?]. Image shows enslaved Black laborers cutting and loading sugar cane. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library.
This will be a two-day hybrid event, with one in-person hub at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and another hosted by the University of Southern California’s Early Modern Studies Institute in Los Angeles. In keeping with the conference themes and goals, we aim to facilitate participation without long-distance travel, however, and will also welcome participants via Zoom. Register to receive both Zoom information and access to pre-circulated materials. For those able to attend at one of the conference hubs:
Traveling to Philadelphia:
The McNeil Center for Early American Studies
University of Pennsylvania
3355 Woodland Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4531
The McNeil Center for Early American Studies is located on the University of Pennsylvania campus at 3355 Woodland Walk near the intersection of 34th and Sansom Streets.
Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on both Thursday, June 16 and Friday, June 17. Philadelphia is easily accessible. Amtrak service is frequent on the Northeast Corridor line between Washington and Boston. SEPTA commuter trains also offer service to Center City or University City as well as transportation within the city via bus, trolley, and subway.
Please contact email@example.com with any questions about the Philadelphia hub.
Traveling to Los Angeles:
University of Southern California
Academy for Polymathic Study
Doheny Memorial Library,
DML 2413550 Trousdale Pkwy
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Doors will open at 9 a.m. Pacific Time for the USC hub on both Thursday, June 16 and Friday, June 17.
Attendees from the Los Angeles area can join the morning sessions via Zoom and then travel to USC for any sessions scheduled for after 9 a.m. PT.
Attendees who wish to attend in-person at USC should RSVP by June 13, 2022 via this google form. EMSI will send directions regarding arriving at USC via light rail or car to those who RSVP.
Please contact the EMSI team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the Los Angeles hub.