Tait Keller is an associate professor of History and former Director of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. His research focuses on environmental change in times of crisis and conflict. He is currently working on his book project, A Global Environmental History of the First World War, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press. He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, the European Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Keller has given invited lectures in Africa, India, Turkey, across Europe, and throughout the United States. He earned his B.A. in History at the University of Rochester and his M.A. in German and European Studies and Ph.D. in History at Georgetown University.

Project Summary

This book project focuses on how energy geopolitics linked the battle lines and home fronts with industry and agriculture in ways that transformed environments around the world. While battlegrounds seemingly suffered devastation, the resulting damage to nature was normally short-lived. Paradoxically, major environmental change occurred behind the lines, away from the killing fields. Armies in the First World War were biological systems, which depended on a “military ecology” of energy extraction, production, and supply to function and fight. The duration and scale of the conflict altered military ecologies around the world and led to new “material flows” of foodstuffs and fossil fuels that transformed relationships from global geopolitics down to individual consumption patterns. Since this approach analyzes the interrelated processes of war and ecosystems, the project also develops the ongoing and much needed environmental analysis of armed conflict in the modern era.

Major Publications