Tuesday, November 18, 2008

John McNeill

Since 1985 John McNeill has served as a faculty member of the School of Foreign Service and the History Department at Georgetown University. From 2003 until 2006 he held the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environmental and International Affairs, until his appointment as University Professor.

He teaches world history, environmental history, and international history at Georgetown. His books include Epidemics and Geopolitics in the American Tropics, 1640-1920 (2008) and Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-Century World (2000).

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I recently enjoyed H. Bruce Franklin's story of the role of an unsung and unloved fish, the menhaden, in American history and life: The Most Important Fish in the Sea. I had been entirely unaware of this humble fish's role in filtering American inshore waters and as food for most of the predator fish that we like to eat. It recounts the rise and fall of the menhaden fishery, and ends with the partial comeback of menhaden populations, and reminds us how poorly we manage marine resources.

Before that I read Elizabeth Fenn's Pox Americana, about the smallpox epidemic in North America in the 1770s, a fabulous piece of history writing. I had read it a few years ago, but wanted to remind myself of how a good book is put together.

I've also read most of (and should soon finish) Julian Bennett's Trajan, to learn more about one my favorite Roman emperors, especially about his conquest of what we now call Iraq early in the second century A.D. His successor, Hadrian, decided it was not worth the cost of keeping it and withdrew Roman forces. I suspect President Obama will conclude similarly in a few months.
Learn more about John McNeill's research and teaching at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue