Linda Nash

  • Associate Professor
  • Director, Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest
  • John Calhoun Smith Memorial Endowed Professor
  • on-leave until Spring 2018

Ph.D. University of Washington, 2000

Fields: Environmental History, Twentieth Century U.S., American West
Phone: 206-616-7176
Office: SMI 203A |

I am a historian of the twentieth-century US whose focus is on environmental and cultural history. My research interests revolve around how and why different people understand environments, material objects, and environmental change in the ways that they do, and the material and social implications of those understandings.  Although my interest in history developed while I was an undergraduate, for many years I pursued my concern with environmental issues through the study of engineering, science, and policy. In addition to an AB and Ph.D. in History, I also hold a BS in Civil Engineering and an MS in Energy and Resources. 

As a twentieth-century historian, I am especially interested in the evolution of certain kinds of professional knowledges and identities, how those knowledges and identities gain status and authority at particular moments, how they travel, and what happens when individuals encounter different environments and alternative ways of understanding the world. My book, Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge, draws on environmental history and the history of the body to explore the ways in which doctors, public health officials, engineers, and lay persons have understood the intertwined issues of environment, health, race, and disease in one particular place from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century.  This book was awarded the American Historical Association’s John H. Dunning Prize, the American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch Book Prize, and the Western Association of Women Historian’s Serra-Keller Prize.  My current book project continues my interest in the production of knowledge, while placing that interest in a transnational frame and looking at a different set of concerns and actors.  Tentatively titled Engineering Modern Lands, this book tells a cultural, environmental, and postcolonial history of postwar “development” by following American water engineers in the decades immediately after World War II as they moved between Washington's Columbia Basin and Afghanistan's Helmand Valley.  Focusing on how local environments and materials have shaped technoscientific practices across the twentieth century, I am especially interested in how American approaches to infrastructure grew out of the nation's settler colonial history in the American West. 

My teaching and research reflect my continuing interest in issues of environment and culture, disease and public health, science and technology studies, and the history of the US West, as well as more recent interests in consumption and consumerism, material culture studies, and transnational environmental history.  I currently serve on the editorial boards of Environmental History and Environmental Justice

Courses Taught


U.S. Environmental History (HSTAA 221/ENVIR 221)

Consumption and Consumerism in Modern America (HSTAA 371)

Colloquium on the Environmental History of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest (HIST 498)

Colloquium on Nature and Culture in Modern America (HIST 498)

Colloquium on Consumerism and Commodities in American History (HIST 498)


Comparative Environmental History

Environment, Disease, and Histories of Empire in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Regional History in a Transnational Age: The American West  

US Environmental History: Approaches and Topics   


(Note: Please contact me regarding articles that you are unable to locate or access.)

From Safety to Risk:  The Cold War Contexts of American Environmental Policy,” J. Policy History 29 (2017): 1-33.

"The Environments of Seattle's History," Pacific Northwest Quarterly 107 (Spring 2016): 56-71 [pdf]

“The Body and Environmental History in the Anthropocene,” in The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, ed. Ursula Heise, Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, London: Routledge, 2017. 

“Un Siècle Toxique:  L’emergence de la ‘Santé Environmentale’” ("Toxic Century: The Emergence of Environmental Health") in  Histoire de Sciences et des Savoirs, v. 3, ed. Dominique Pestre and Christophe Bonneuil, Paris: Le Seuil/Palgrave, 2015, 144-65 [pdf:  french  english].

“Beyond 'Virgin Soils,'" in Oxford Handbook of Environmental History, ed. Andrew Isenberg, New York: Oxford, 2014, 76-107.

“Furthering the Environmental Turn,” Journal of American History 100 (June 2013), 131-135 .

“Traveling Technology?  American Water Engineers in the Columbia Basin and the Helmand Valley,” in Minds and Matters: Technology in California and the West, ed. Volker Janssen.  San Marino and Berkeley, CA: The Huntington Library and University of California Press, 2012, 135-158.

“Purity and Danger: Historical Reflections on Environmental Regulation,” Environmental History 13(2008), 651-658.

Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge . Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. 346 pp.

· John H. Dunning Prize, American Historical Association; Pacific Coast Branch Book Prize, American Historical Association; Sierra-Keller Book Prize, Western Association of Women Historians

“The Agency of Nature or the Nature of Agency?,” Environmental History 10 (January 2005), 67-69.

"The Fruits of Ill-Health: Pesticides and Workers’ Bodies in Postwar California," Osiris 19 (2004), 203-19.

· Alice Hamilton Prize for best article in Environmental History, American Society for Environmental History

"Finishing Nature: Harmonizing Bodies and Environments in Late Nineteenth-Century California,"Environmental History 8 (January 2003), 25-52.

"The Changing Experience of Nature: Historical Encounters with A Northwest River," Journal of American History 86 (March 2000), 1600-1629.