Department of History

Sarah Hamilton

Sarah Hamilton Associate Professor
320F Thach Hall (office hours held outside Mell 3520)

Office Hours

  • Tuesday 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. outside Mell 3520 (or by appointment)
  • Thursday 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. outside Mell 3520 (or by appointment)


Sarah Hamilton joined Auburn's faculty in the fall of 2014. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan, her JD from the University of Colorado (Order of the Coif), and her BA in history from Duke University (Magna Cum Laude).

Dr. Hamilton teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on environmental and world history. Her courses integrate active pedagogical methods, especially the extended role-playing games of the Reacting to the Past program. In 2019 she received both the Plainsman’s Choice award for Favorite Professor and the Professor of the Year Award from the Auburn University Honors College.

Dr. Hamilton’s work on environmental history explores conservation and environmental change in working landscapes, the politics of water use, and environmental policy in the European Union. Her 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. Focusing on the twentieth-century history of the Albufera de Valencia, a natural park located in eastern Spain, it employs the park’s contested lands and waters as a lens bringing 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. Shifting between local struggles and global debates, it reveals how Franco's dictatorship, Spain's integration with Europe, and the ongoing crisis of European agriculture have shaped the Albufera, its users, and its inhabitants. Dr. Hamilton’s work on this project was supported by a Fulbright Research Grant, a Jean Monnet Graduate Fellowship on European Integration, and Humanities Research and Predoctoral fellowships from the Rackham Graduate School of the University of Michigan.

Dr. Hamilton’s current project explores the twentieth-century history of groundwater exploitation. It follows the transfer of hydrogeological technologies and knowledge to arid regions around the world via international development programs in the postwar era, and explores epistemological and practical questions surrounding the exploitation of invisible resources. It argues that large-scale use of groundwater relies upon a combination of private initiative and public support. Modern problems of aquifer overexploitation and environmental decline derive not only from self-interested water users but also to inadequate political responses and cultural norms.

Dr. Hamilton has served on the board of the World History Association and is a founding member and current head of the Women’s Environmental History Network. She also leads an annual summer pre-freshman trip to Costa Rica for the Auburn University Honors College.


Ph.D. University of Michigan

J.D. University of Colorado

B.A. Duke University

Representative Publications


Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape (University of Washington Press, 2018).


“Toxicidad e invisibilidad en l’Albufera de Valencia,” in Tóxicos Invisibles, ed. Agustí Nieto-Galan (Barcelona: Icaria, 2020). Forthcoming

Environmental Change and Protest in Franco’s Spain, 1939-1975.” Environmental History 22 (2017): 257-281.

Activismo Medioambiental en la Época Tardofranquista. El caso de El Saler.” Arbor: Ciencia, Pensamiento, Cultura (journal of the Spanish National Research Council), 192 no. 781 (Sept-Oct. 2016): a346.

Classes Taught

Honors World History: The Rise and Fall of the Nation State

World History I and II

American Environmental History

Global Environmental History

Theory and Methods of Environmental History

Graduate Seminar in World History

Senior Thesis

Last Updated: August 30, 2019