On March 7, David Blackbourn, a Professor at Vanderbilt University, delivered a keynote address at the sixth annual Southeast German Studies Workshop. The event was held in the McClung Museum Auditorium where students and the public gathered to hear Blackbourn's speech, "Nature and Environment in Modern Germany: A Difficult History."
Blackbourn, President of the Friends of the German Historical Institute and editorial board member for the journal Past and Present, focused on a variety of historical proceedings that took place in Germany from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. He discussed how uninhabitable marshlands, Rhine engineering projects and the developments of hydroelectric power helped Germany become more advanced.
As an affiliate of the academic advisory board of the Institute of European History, he elaborated on how the projects in Germany have caused great concern for a number of conservationists throughout history.
“There is a modern era myth that states that Germany is the fatherland of forestry,” Blackbourn said.
He emphasized the concerns that Germans had in the nineteenth century over industrialization due to the lack of resources and pollution that they believed it was causing.
“The smoke caused by high industrialization was dark black in color and gave out a pessimistic stink,” Blackbourn said.
He elaborated on how river valleys have transformed in present Germany due to dam constructions. The hydroelectric power allowed excessive amounts of energy to be given off.
“The 'Water Wars' also caused Germans to be against Germans,” according to Blackbourn.
He emphasized how the shaping of landscapes in Germany have been influenced by different cultures and industrial processes that altered the country's appearance over time.
"There is a modern era myth that states that Germany is the fatherland of forestry," Blackbourn said.
At the closing, the audience had opportunities to speak with Blackbourn about the transformations currently taking place in Germany. After the reception he was honored for his many publications within the field of German history, including the History of Germany 1780-1918: The Long Nineteenth Century and The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany.