Hoffmann’s An Environmental History of Medieval Europe

Michelle Ziegler:

My review of Richard Hoffmann’s new book can be found on Heavenfield, my medieval history blog.

Originally posted on Heavenfield:

Richard C. Hoffmann. An Environmental History of Medieval Europe. Cambridge Medieval Textbooks. Cambridge University Press, April 2014. $25 paperback, $12.50 e-book.

History roots in time and place — establishing situations, telling stories, comparing stories, linking stories. Environmental history brings the natural world into the story as an agent and object of history. This is medieval history as if nature mattered. (p. 3)

As a biologist, it is almost unimaginable to me for the natural world not to be a factor in history – not in a deterministic way – but as an integral component. This is a reminder to me, and now to you, that I read medieval history through a different lens. This book is very consciously a textbook  intended for historians and history students. As the very first  medieval environmental history textbook, Hoffmann is very carefully laying the theoretical foundation for a new sub-discipline. For non-historians, it…

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Reading in July

July 2014 reading 1


As I start working on my book project, I’m going to have less time to develop blog posts, so I thought I would share what I’m reading with you each month. This will also give me an incentive to keep blogging and reading! I’ll list the books I’ve read and the papers that I thought were particularly interesting.



  • Squatriti, Paolo. “Offa’s Dyke Between Nature and Culture.” Environmental History, 2004, 37–56.
  • Squatriti, Paolo. “The Floods of 589 and Climate Change at the Beginning of the Middle Ages: an Italian Microhistory.” Speculum 85, no. 4 (November 18, 2010): 799–826. doi:10.1017/S0038713410002290.
  • Slavin, P. “Warfare and Ecological Destruction in Early Fourteenth-Century British Isles.” Environmental History 19, no. 3 (June 20, 2014): 528–50. doi:10.1093/envhis/emu033.

Biosecurity Failures Round-up

Like many of you, I’ve been watching and reading all the recent biosecurity lapses at our top labs with some dismay. This really isn’t something I normally would cover here on Contagions, but a comment from a reader reminded me that not everyone gets all the stories I’ve been tweeting (or retweeting) for the last few months. So here is a partial roundup in no particular order:

CIDRAP: Wholesale roster change coming for US biosecurity board

Superbug: The Leader of the Smallpox Eradication Effort Speaks About the Virus’ Rediscovery

Superbug: Virus in Found Tubes of Smallpox Is Viable

Superbug: Enhancing flu in the lab: Are accidents inevitable?

Found: Forgotten Vials of Smallpox | Science Blogs | WIRED

Exclusive: U.S. says government lab workers possibly exposed to anthrax

After Lapses,CDC Admits a Lax Culture at Labs | NYTimes

U.S. inspectors find further anthrax violations, mishandling http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/14/us-usa-anthrax-idUSKBN0FJ29X20140714

Transcript of CDC Press Conference on Recent Biosafety Incidents

On biosecurity at a local level: Out of the Lab & Into the Mouth These are getting to be yearly stories!

Meanwhile, elsewhere  Ebola (another category A bioterrorism agent) is raging unchecked in western Africa….

“How to Ignore a Plague” (Ebola) by Umaru Fofana

Ebola cases in West Africa reach 964, deaths top 600  http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2014/07/ebola-cases-west-africa-reach-964-deaths-top-600

USAMRIID Providing Laboratory Support to Ebola Outbreak http://globalbiodefense.com/2014/07/15/usamriid-providing-laboratory-support-ebola-outbreak/#sthash.GxNfldMP.dpuf