Peter Coates (Principal Investigator)

Peter Coates (Principal Investigator) : Professor of American and Environmental History

Professor of American and Environmental History

Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol

Peter Coates is an environmental historian of the 19th and 20th century USA and UK, though his interest in the study of human relations with the rest of the natural world over time is not confined to these nations, nor to recent centuries.

Peter has written on a variety of subjects – including an assessment of attitudes to nature in the western world since ancient time (Nature, 1998). Animal history is a particular interest and he has published on American attitudes to introduced species of flora and fauna (American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species, 2007) and a “bio-biography” of the king of fish (Salmon, 2006), as well as essays on sparrows and squirrels (red and grey). His most recent book is A Story of Six Rivers: History, Culture and Ecology (Reaktion, 2013). He has served as the UK and Ireland representative for the European Society for Environmental History as well as a 4-year term on the executive committee of the American Society for Environmental History. He belonged to the editorial collective for the journal Environment and History for many years and continues to serve on its editorial board. In addition, he is a member of the editorial boards for Routledge's Environmental Humanities series and Berghahn Books' series ‘The Environment in History: International Perspectives’.

Peter has been involved in various externally funded, place-based projects. These include:

  • 'Militarized Landscapes in the Twentieth Century: Britain, France and the United States’, funded by the AHRC’s Landscape and Environment Programme (and partnered by the MoD's Environmental Support Team)
  • He was also PI for the AHRC Research Network 'Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of Environmental Change’ (2010-11) and 'The Places That Speak to Us and the Publics We Talk With' (2012-13).
  • 'At the Core of the Quantocks', a project on the orchard heritage of the Quantock Hills, Funded by: Quantock Hills Sustainable Development Fund and Lady Edith Smythe Agricultural Research Station (LESARS bequest) and the AHRC.

Peter’s interests include outdoor swimming (he is self-appointed president of the European Society for Environmental History’s swimming club), loose leaf teas, reading The New Yorker, mushrooming and wandering around the Quantock Hills (he has contributed a walk in the Quantocks to the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers ‘Discovering Britain’ website, which can be downloaded at He has still not even begun to write that long-awaited complete history of the avocado.

View all blog posts by Peter

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