Environmental History Book Prize – Winners

2023

The 2023 prize was judged by Professor Emerita Grace Karskens (UNSW) and Emeritus Professor Eric Pawson (Uni. Canterbury). They have awarded the prize jointly to Lucy Mackintosh for Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and Emily O’Gorman for Wetlands in a Dry Land: More-than-human Histories of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin. Both these books are extraordinary in the scope and depth of their research, imaginative and lucid writing, and innovative approaches.  Most importantly both these books shift the shape of environmental history, and history-writing more broadly, in significant new directions.

Winners

Citation: Lucy Mackintosh, Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland (Bridget Williams Books, 2021)

This beautifully produced and illustrated book reads deep, multi-faceted histories through sensitive encounters with key places in Aotearoa’s largest city.  By centring Māori stories, histories and ontologies, and in holistically exploring geology, ecology and materiality, Mackintosh tells new and complex stories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland as a site of intercultural fluidity and continual making and remaking.  Her stories powerfully reveal how colonial and imperial histories invented the ‘empty landscapes’ and ‘wilderness’ settlers allegedly encountered here.  Shifting Grounds is a magnificent and accessible contribution to the historiography of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and a beacon of shining possibilities for urban environmental history. It shows how to engage with urban landscapes in deeply productive ways, demonstrating that bringing historical methods and sensitivities to bear on well-known (and lesser-known) places can be very refreshing.

Citation: Emily O’Gorman, Wetlands in a Dry Land: More-than-human Histories of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (University of Washington Press, 2021)

This superb book beautifully combines theoretical sophistication with deeply researched histories of people, place and more-than-human actors in the vast Murray-Darling Basin. Traversing – and so revealing – the cycles binding past and present, O’Gorman’s skilful multispecies approach explores relations between the human and more-than-human, the power contests between them, and the ways in which the activities of each leak into the other, often redefining behaviours in the process. Chapters exploring the behaviour of seals or ducks or mosquitoes are simply a joy to read, but also demonstrate how conventional accounts are gendered and racialised. O’Gorman learns from and honours Aboriginal ontologies, so long submerged and silenced by both colonial accounts and more recent conservation thinking. Here too, the conceptual categories of culture and nature are blurred and dissolved, and history truly is made anew.