Robert P. Shapard

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PhD Candidate
rpshapar@email.unc.edu

Major Field: United States History
Other Fields: 
Environmental History; the American South; Oral History
Adviser: 
W. Fitzhugh Brundage

BA Williams College, 1989
MA University of Georgia, 1994
(Journalism)
MA North Carolina State University, 2009

MA Thesis: “Building an Inland Sea: Clarks Hill Lake on the Upper Savannah and the Twentieth-century Lives, Land, and River Hidden by Its Waters”

Research Interests

The relentless clearing of the longleaf-pine forests of the American South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries equaled or exceeded in scale the timbering of other North American forests, from the white pines in the northeastern quadrant of the continent to the Pacific redwoods. Yet we do not know much about how people dealt with this dramatic transformation of the southern landscape. While recounting the histories of the timber and naval-stores industries—important narratives of the New South—my dissertation places those histories in the background. In the foreground, the study seeks to analyze the discourse around the longleaf’s near-devastation, both within and outside the longleaf regions of the South. The study traces the diverse perceptions of the longleaf forests expressed during this period by people with varying connections to the forests, drawing on sources including contemporary newspapers, census data, diaries, letters, memoirs, and oral histories, as well as literature, music, art, and folklore materials. It gauges the level of awareness among citizens of the decline of the forests and their reactions to this change. The study seeks to identify any strong voices of dissent that emerged from southerners, and from people outside the region as well. But it also seeks meaning in expressions of concern that were more nuanced or conflicted. The project thus reaches for deeper understandings of environmental attitudes in and about the South during a transformative period.

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