Edward Melillo Wins Two Environmental History Awards

Edward Melillo, assistant professor of history and environmental studies, has been awarded honors from the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) and the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) for academic literature he has published concerning, respectively, the historic Pacific fertilizer trade and the portrayals that Nantucket whaling crews left of their own journeys.

Mellilo400Edward Melillo

Melillo received the 2013 Alice Hamilton Prize (for best article not appearing in the journal Environmental History) from the ASEH for an article he published in 2012 in The American Historical Review entitled “The First Green Revolution: Debt Peonage and the Making of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Trade, 1840–1930.” In the article, Melillo offers the argument that the Green Revolution of the mid-20th century, which many scholars consider to be the first global-scale, human-initiated nitrogen cycle alteration, was actually preceded by one that ran from the 1840s to the 1930s, in which hundreds of millions of tons of fertilizer were extracted from Peru and Chile and exported to the United States and Europe. According to The American Historical Review, Melillo “fuses two emerging research areas, global environmental history and transnational labor history... [and] offers a new understanding of the roles that labor systems and resources in the Pacific world played in global agricultural transitions.” The research behind the article was based on archival work Melillo did in Chile and California and is part of a book entitled Strangers on Familiar Soil: Rediscovering the Chile-California Connection, 1786–2008, which grew out of Melillo’s Yale doctoral dissertation and is presently under review with Oxford University Press.

Melillo also won the NHA’s 2013 E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellowship for his book project Out of the Blue: Nantucket and the Pacific World. The work examines maritime connections between Nantucket and the Pacific world between the late 18th and early 20th centuries. The fellowship provides a three-week residence in the historic Thomas Macy House and requires the recipient to produce an article for the summer edition of Historic Nantucket and to deliver a public lecture about his research. Melillo expects to journey to the island in October and to lecture at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. 

Melillo’s academic interests revolve around environmental history and the history of the Pacific world. He focuses on the interaction between humans and their ecosystems. Melillo is currently spending his junior sabbatical as a visiting fellow at The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University. Upon his return to Amherst next semester, he plans on teaching “Commodities, Nature and Society,” a seminar exploring the environmental and social histories of “sugar, silver, silk, coffee, tobacco, sneakers, microchips, units of bandwidth and human body parts.”