Every year, the Journal of the History of Ideas awards the Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the best first book in intellectual history.
The winner of the JHI‘s 2019 Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the best first book in intellectual history is Lydia Barnett, for After the Flood: Imagining the Global Environment in Early Modern Europe (Johns Hopkins University Press). The judging committee writes:
Lydia Barnett’s After the Flood: Imagining the Global Environment in Early Modern Europe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019) makes a powerful and erudite argument to the effect that learned Europeans were thinking of the Earth’s environment in ways that were both global and involved human agency long before the age of the “Anthropocene” as it is now commonly understood. Crucial to these discussions was the Biblical account of the Universal Flood. Like Creation itself, the Flood was difficult to reconcile with Aristotelian natural philosophy, while its possible effects in the distant past, along with the possibility of a recurrence, prompted often startling speculation concerning the origins of human races, the differences among climactic zones, the separation of the continents, the causes of disease and the future of both mankind and the planet. Attempts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to create what has been called a Mosaic natural science coincided with Europe’s two centuries of religious struggle. Where other modern scholars have tended to assume in the denizens of the Republic of Letters a tolerant, cosmopolitan outlook that bridged competing versions of Christianity, Barnett shows that placing and accounting for the Universal Deluge in geohistory resulted in controversies along confessional lines. Barnett pushes scholars to take more seriously the premodern roots of environmentalist thinking and demonstrates persuasively that theology was not an obstacle to, but a vehicle for an emerging awareness of humanity’s capacity to alter nature on a global scale.Statement from/by the judging committee.
Lydia Barnett (Ph.D., Stanford University, 2011) is a historian of early modern Europe with a focus on Italy, Britain, and the Atlantic world and thematic interests in science, religion, gender, and the environment. She is Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University. After the Flood has also been short-listed for the 2020 Kenshur Prize for the best book in eighteenth-century studies. She is currently working on a new book project about labor and gender in the eighteenth-century earth and environmental sciences.
The JHI Blog extends its deepest congratulations to Professor Barnett and looks forward to reading more of her work.