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The OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program


Andrew Needham

Andrew NeedhamAndrew Needham is a historian of the twentieth-century United States who specializes in the relationship between urban life and the natural environment. His work is animated by the question: How has urbanization spurred far-reaching changes in human societies and natural ecologies? He is the author of Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest (2014), which explores the transformation of Phoenix and the Navajo nation in the years after World War II and tells the story of the far-reaching environmental and social inequalities of metropolitan growth as well as the roots of our contemporary coal-fueled climate change crisis. It received five book prizes, including the George Perkins Marsh Prize for the best book in environmental history, the Caughey Western History Association Prize, and the David J. Weber and Bill Clements Prize for best nonfiction work on the American Southwest.

Needham is currently working on two new projects. The first, "Engineering Sustainability: Nature and Technology in Urban America," is a history of urban infrastructure in the long twentieth century. In it he examines both how urban officials have used spatial expansion to solve environmental problems—considering the reversal of the Chicago River, segregation of environmental nuisances in Los Angeles, the construction of Jones Beach off Long Island, the construction of bart in the San Francisco Bay area, and the expansion of Detroit's water system into its suburbs—and how the resulting infrastructures have changed social and environmental communities. His second project, "The Origins of the Climate Crisis: Metropolitanism and Energy Use in Postwar America," explores the ways ideas and public policies spurred metropolitan growth as well as climate change.

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Lectures