Sarah Hamilton


Associate Professor , Environmental History


Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion


My research explores the politics of water use and the impacts of global networks on conservation and environmental change in working landscapes. My first book, Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape, received the 2019 Turku Book Award (from the European Society for Environmental History and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society) and the Baker-Burton Award (from the Southern Historical Association). Focusing on the history of the Albufera de Valencia, a natural park located in eastern Spain, it uses the park’s contested lands and waters as a lens to bring regional, national, and global social histories into sharp focus. It argues that efforts to preserve biological and cultural diversity must incorporate the interests of those who live within the heavily modified and long-exploited ecosystems of contemporary working landscapes.

My current project, Water Underground, is a comparative study of large-scale groundwater development in diverse locations including Spain, the United States, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and southern Africa. It follows flows of water, commodities, expertise, and technology through global networks over the past 150 years and explores epistemological and practical questions surrounding the exploitation of invisible resources.

I received my PhD from the University of Michigan in 2013 and my JD from the University of Colorado in 2004. Prior to joining the University of Bergen in 2022, I was associate professor of history and Director of the Academic Sustainability Program at Auburn University (USA), where I worked for eight years. In addition to research and teaching I have been extensively involved in service work with professional organizations including the World History Association and the Women’s Environmental History Network. Currently, I am a member of the Executive Council of the American Society for Environmental History and serve on the editorial boards of the journals Environment and History and Historia Agraria.

I welcome inquiries from students at the Bachelors, Masters, and PhD levels who are interested in working on topics in my areas of expertise, including histories of conservation, agriculture, mining, environmental activism, environmental management, rewilding, pollution, water, hunting, natural sciences, and science and technology studies.


I have designed and taught a wide variety of courses on world history, environmental history, and sustainability. My objective in all of these courses has been to teach students new ways of interacting with the world around them and to provide tools with which they can approach complex problems in their lives beyond the classroom. In addition to content knowledge, my students have engaged in projects designed to help them explore their campus and communities, to encourage empathy for historical actors unlike themselves, to negotiate creative solutions and compromises with their peers, and to consider how individuals’ personal circumstances shape the way they experience life. I make heavy use of active pedagogical methods, especially the extended role-playing games of the Reacting to the Past program.

While at Auburn University (2014-2021) I was honored for my work in the classroom with the Plainsman’s Favorite Professor (2019), Honors College Professor of the Year (2019), Student Government Association Honors College Faculty Member of the Year (2020), and College of Liberal Arts Teaching Excellence Award (2021).