Milk — and the American Consumer's — Ever-Evolving Story

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 19, 2016) — In historian Kendra Smith-Howard’s first book, Pure and Modern Milk (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), she took a wide-ranging environmental, political and cultural look at the evolving history of milk, a food she calls central to Americans’ perceptions about nature. These have altered, she points out, along with the 20th Century history of consumer culture.

Pure and Modern Milk was lauded in several scholarly journals, including Environmental History, where reviewer Deborah Valenze of Barnard College called it “an exciting, groundbreaking scholarly achievement, full of important revelations and nuanced insights. By attending to the environment, Smith-Howard has put the farm back at the center of food history.”

Smith-Howard, an associate professor in the Department of History, pays further attention to the environment vis-à-vis consumer culture in her current book project: an environmental history of what she calls “cleaning up.” It centers on how tasks such as doing the laundry, wiping up spills, and sanitizing households have connected Americans to the natural world in the 20th Century.

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