Interview: Alfred Cosby

Document Type



Environmental Analysis (Pomona)

Publication Date



Alfred Cosby, environmental history, interview


“It is not often,” John O’Neill has observed, “that a historian coins a new phrase that becomes standard shorthand for some complex phenomenon, but today almost every practicing historian in the U.S., and many overseas, recognize the words ‘The Columbian Exchange.’” Yet Alfred W. Crosby’s book of that title, now indisputably a classic in the field of environmental history, could not find a publisher for several years before it appeared in 1972. In this interview, Crosby discusses the personal and professional background behind his emergence as an environmental historian, comments on the half-dozen major works he has produced since The Columbian Exchange, and offers some shrewd advice for younger practitioners of the craft. The field of environmental history is fortunate to have had among its founders a number of historians who write with elegance, wit, and verve about topics of the largest import. Alfred W. Crosby is surely one of them, and the editors are deeply grateful for the opportunity to interview him about the shape of his career and the state of the field.

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© 2009 American Society for Environmental History and Forest History Society

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