Department of History

Sarah Hamilton

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

Office Hours

  • By appointment


Sarah Hamilton joined Auburn's faculty in the fall of 2014. Her research explores the politics of water use and the impacts of global networks on conservation and environmental change in working landscapes. She directs the Academic Sustainability Program and teaches 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. She has been honored for her teaching with the Plainsman’s Favorite Professor (2019), Honors College Professor of the Year (2019), and an SGA Award for Outstanding Faculty (2020).

Dr. Hamilton’s 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. 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, 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, goods, expertise, and technology through global networks over the past 150 years and explores epistemological and practical questions surrounding the exploitation of invisible resources. Long-established patterns of unsustainable groundwater use have led to resource conflicts, social and economic instability, and environmental degradation, intensified by increasing demand and declining rainfall in the modern era. Contrary to widespread portrayals of groundwater as an uncontrollable and “anarchic” resource, Dr. Hamilton’s research reveals the essential role of state actors in the creation and maintenance of the conditions that underlie these crises. Her work describes groundwater management as a “wicked problem,” virtually insoluble due to its complexity, scientific uncertainty, stakeholders’ incompatible objectives and worldviews, and the serious and irreversible repercussions of any decisions that are taken.

Dr. Hamilton serves on the editorial board of Historia Agraria and is a founding member and current head of the Women’s Environmental History Network. She also leads a 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: June 22, 2020