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Lecture: Looking for War in the Landscape

Professor Megan Kate Nelson and Professor Gary Reger (Trinity).
Professor Megan Kate Nelson and Professor Gary Reger (Trinity).

On October 23, Trinity welcomed Megan Kate Nelson, a cultural and environmental historian with two published books who currently teaches at Brown University. She led a discussion entitled “Looking for War in the Landscape/Looking for Landscapes in the War” in which she analyzed the Civil War’s impact on the land of the United States and vice versa.

Nelson conducted extensive research in Virginia guided by a fascinating question: how can we access the experiences of the Civil War? The answer, she concluded, lies right beneath our feet: the land. In her research, Nelson studied “earthworks” and other physical remains of war. Some of these lay unnoticed on the outskirts of suburbs and others were formally preserved, and still others are missing. She found that the experience evoked by these earthworks was a reflection of their location and the landscape itself.

Nelson’s current research involves a narrative history of the Civil War in the Southwest, where the diverse eco-regions of New Mexico were the site of biological warfare. Whether concerning natural or built landscapes, Nelson’s insight into the diverse connections between land and warfare is compelling for historians and non-historians alike.

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