Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
San Diego State University
Website URL
Environmental history, urban history, environmental policy, energy and petroleum development, water resources policy, waste disposal and pollution, air pollution, urban infrastructure, federalism, government capacity, business influence in American politics.
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Sarah S. Elkind is a Professor of History teaching environmental, technology, political and urban history at San Diego State University.  In 2010-2011, she held the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.  Her current research examines the global history of resource conservation.

In past projects, she examined the relationships between the private sector and government; the history of regulation; and public infrastructure.   She has published studies of water resources, sanitation and public health history; air pollution regulation; urban flood control; oil extraction; public recreation; and federalism.  These project engage the history of technology through the examination of environmental consequences of technological innovation, and policy responses to those consequences.

In her second book, How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy (2011), she used case studies from Los Angeles’s energy, flood control, air pollution and water resources history to explore business influence in twentieth century American politics.  Her first book Bay Cities and Water Politics (1998) examined regional public works and political reform in American cities.

As a public historian, she has researched nation-building and public memory, and curated exhibits on twentieth century tourism economics, the nineteenth century Pacific ceramics trade, and the environmental history of the military in Southern California. She teaches courses on the history of water resources policy and development in the American west; the history of current environmental crises, the environmental history of warfare, and the role of the media in shaping environmental politics.  She holds a PhD in History from the University of Michigan.

Recent Publications


How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy:  Business, Power and Environment in Twentieth Century Los Angeles, University of North Carolina Press, 2011. (Paperback 2014)

Bay Cities and Water Politics:  The Battle for Resources in Boston and Oakland, 1880-1930, University Press of Kansas, 1998. Winner, Abel Wolman Prize for best book in Public Works History.

Public Works and Public Health:  Reflections on Urban Politics and Environment, 1880-1925, in Essays in Public Works History, no. 19, Public Works Historical Society, 1999.

Articles and Chapters

“World War II in the Urban Environment:  Redirecting American Politics,” The Environmental History of World War II, ed. by Richard Tucker and Tom Robertson, Pittsburgh University Press, in review.

“Extracting Property Values and Oil: Los Angeles’s Petroleum Booms and the Definition of Urban Space,” Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte/Economic History Yearbook, Special Issue on Sites of Extraction, 57:1 (2016). Winner, Preis für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, prize for best article published in Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte/Economic History Yearbook in 2016.

“Oil Drilling in the City:  Zoning, Property Rights, and Regulation,” Southern California Quarterly, 97:3 (2015).

“View from the Dump:  Stige Ø and the Question of Anti-Landscapes,” in The Anti-Landscape, ed. by David E. Nye and Sarah S. Elkind, Rodopi Press, 2014.

“The Energy Capital of Southern California:  Los Angeles,” for Energy Capitals, ed. by Martin Melosi, Joseph Pratt and Kathleen Brosnan, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014.

“Oil and the City:  The Fall and Rise of Oil Drilling in Los Angeles,” Journal of American History, 99:1 (2012).

“Environmental History:  Complexity, Connections and Place,” OAH Magazine of History 25:4 (2011)

“Readings in Environmental History:  An Unscientific Survey,” OAH Magazine of History 25:4 (2011)

“The Nature and Business of War:  Drilling for Oil in Wartime Los Angeles,” in Cities in Nature:  Urban Environments of the American West, Essays in Honor of Hal K. Rothman, ed. by Char Miller, University of Nevada Press, 2010.

“California History as American History,” California History 87:1 (2009).

“Private Power at Boulder Dam:  Utilities, Government Power, and Political Realism,” Reclamation:  Managing Water in the West, The Bureau of Reclamation: History Essays from the Centennial Symposium, vol 2, US Department of the Interior, 2008.

“Environmental Inequality and the Urbanization of West Coast Watersheds,” Pacific Historical Review, 75:1 (2006).

“Black Gold and the Beach:  Offshore Oil, Beaches and Federal Power in Southern California,” Journal of the West, 44:1 (2005).

“Los Angeles Nature:  Urban Environmental Politics in the Twentieth Century,” in City, Country, Empire:  New Directions in Environmental History, ed. by Jeffry M. Diefendorf and Kurk Dorsey, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.

“Public Oil, Private Oil:  The Tidelands Oil Controversy, World War II and the Control of the Environment,” in The Way We Really Were:  The Golden State in the Second Great War, ed. by Roger Lotchin, University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, 20th century
Expertise by Topic
Environment, Government, Local & Regional, Museums, Politics, Public History, Technology, Urban History