Zachary Bennett is a historian of early North America. His research centers on river spaces to explore the relationship between water, energy, and sovereignty.
His current manuscript, tentatively titled "Cascading Powers: Rivers and the Remaking of New England," explores how waterpower was a source of political and economic control long before industrialization. The land deeds and treaties we find in archives currently drive narratives of early American history. Unfortunately, these written sources are technical European legal documents that overlook on the ground realities. Cascading Powers shines light on these realities by focusing on how people interacted with rivers on one particularly violent early American frontier. As a primary source of food and labor, waterways lay at the physical and economic center of early American life, yet access to them was limited and contested. Cascading Powers chronicles how events tied to watery spaces and resources inspired conflict and shaped social change in New England.
Zachary's writing has appeared in The New England Quarterly and Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. The American Antiquarian Society and the Filson Historical Society have funded his research.
Dr. Bennett's teaching employs sources in the environmental record to provide insight into people who did not leave much of a written record of their lives. Environmental factors such as cataclysmic storms, invasive plants, or declining animal populations affected everyone in early America, bringing a diverse array of people into conflict, and sometimes cooperation.
Zachary investigates how environmental change triggered wider social and political events during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He is particularly interested in drawing connections between the seismic ecological changes of that period to the pressing environmental challenges of the twenty-first century.
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