Environmental and world history emerged and established themselves as innovative subfields of history over the past thirty years, each making important contributions to historians' understanding of historical processes. Recently, several important books have begun to explore the ways in which a combined “world environmental history” might contribute to our understanding of the past. By having the entire world as the unit of analysis, and the mutual interaction of humans with the nature world as the problematic, this emerging body of work suggests new ways of periodizing the past, calling into question, among other topics, general schemes developed by nineteenth-century European social theorists, explanations for the emergence of the modern world, capitalism, and industry, and the development and exercise of state power.

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