Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

Empire of Timber: Labor Unions and the Pacific Northwest Forests

  • Places labour unions at the centre of environmental history
  • Asks labour historians to take the environment seriously as a category of analysis
  • Challenges conventional narratives about workers and the environment

Series: Studies in Environment and History

By: Erik Loomis(Author)

256 pages, b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | May 2017 | #236467 | ISBN-13: 9781107565036
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $26/€22 approx
Hardback | Dec 2015 | #224757 | ISBN-13: 9781107125490
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £66.99 $86/€73 approx

About this book

The battles to protect ancient forests and spotted owls in Northwest America splashed across the evening news in the 1980s and early 1990s. Empire of Timber re-examines this history to demonstrate that workers used their unions to fight for a healthy workplace environment and sustainable logging practices that would allow themselves and future generations the chance to both work and play in the forests. Examining labour organizations from the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1910s to unions in the 1980s, Empire of Timber shows that conventional narratives of workers opposing environmental protection are far too simplistic and often ignore the long histories of natural resource industry workers attempting to protect their health and their futures from the impact of industrial logging. Today, when workers fear that environmental restrictions threaten their jobs, learning the history of alliances between unions and environmentalists can build those conversations in the present.

"We know a lot about the US environmental movement. There is also a considerable body of scholarship that explores the tumultuous past of unions and unionizing. Forging the links between these historiographies has been rare. Add Empire of Timber to that clutch of pathbreaking studies."
– Char Miller, Pomona College, California

"Empire of Timber represents a major contribution to environmental and forest history, and with its thoughtful thematic combination of work, health, and resource sustainability, it sits at the cutting edge of scholarship in these fields."
– Sarah Phillips, Boston University



1. Industrial nature, working bodies
2. The battle for the body
3. Working class forests
4. The total work environment
5. Countercultural forest workers
6. Organized labor and the ancient forest campaigns


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Erik Loomis is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Rhode Island. He is the author of Out of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe (2015). He writes on labor, environmental, and political issues at the blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money (LGM). His series at LGM, 'This Day in Labor History' won a Cliopatria Award from the History News Network in 2011.

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