Lessons on the Environment
“I could take time to read about parts of the field that I might not have read about otherwise, and it reshaped how I conceive of my own work,” he says.
The instructorship also has given Pluymers time to conduct research and write a book about how wood scarcity shaped English colonialism in Ireland and North America. Last year, he traveled to Gloucestershire, England, to pore through sixteenth- and seventeenth-century documents about the royal Forest of Dean. With his book, Pluymers hopes to push other historians to think differently about how the environment drives historical change.
“One of the things environmental history can do really well is make connections,” he says. “For Caltech students—specifically those studying things like geology, environmental science and engineering, and environmental chemistry—it enables them to put what they are learning in the lab into a historical context.”