My Masters of Letters (M.Litt) degree in Environmental History covered modern history c.1800-2000 primarily in a UK and North American context. I wrote papers on the Love Canal toxic waste spill in Niagara Falls, New York state in the late 1970s and early 1980s; hunting in nineteenth century Africa; and the uses of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel to the historian. I also took a course on 1960s America which covered civil rights, folk music, student protests, liberal presidents and social reforms (including environmentalism) and feminism.
My thesis, ‘To what extent was the British reaction to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring indicative of a tradition of top-down environmentalism?’ investigated the top-down governmental response to Silent Spring in Britain and compared it to the botton-up response in the United States.
The book was mentioned in two debates in both Houses of Parliament which asked about the problems of pesticides and debated the importance of the book. In Britain as well pesticides were already regulated with a voluntary code (which worked well) that had any new pestcide being analyised by two different governmental committees, on which there was no member of the pesticide community.
The thesis also offered an analysis of the criticism of Carson and the book, and the relationship between criticism and gender.
I recorded a podcast of this in December 2011 for the website Environmental History Resources – Podcast 44: Silent Spring at fifty – a comparison perspective (scroll down to bottom of page).