Tait Keller | Assistant Professor and Director of the Environmental Studies and Sciences Program
Office: 211 Buckman Hall | Phone: (901) 843-3655 | Email: kellert@rhodes.edu


I teach a variety of courses that focus on environmental history, war and society, and modern Europe. Several of my courses, especially my environmental history courses, transcend national boundaries and place their subjects in a global context. My classes also heed one environmental historian’s classic advice to go out and get some mud on our hiking boots. With its tradition of community outreach and dedication to applied learning, Rhodes College is ideally suited for a hands-on approach to history. Among our many excursions, my classes have hiked in the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, climbed ancient mounds at the Chucalissa Archeological site, examined old graves at the historic Elmwood Cemetery, toured a local biofuel refinery, visited a wastewater treatment plant, explored the college’s own Level IV certified arboretum, and even paddled voyager canoes (modeled after what French explorers once used) down the Lower Mississippi River. These off-campus adventures help my students to better understand the intricate connections between us and the environment and the ways in which our relationships with nature have changed over time.

My scholarship focuses on the evolving relationships among individuals, states, and the environment, particularly in times of crisis and conflict. My first book, Apostles of the Alps, is under contract with the University of North Carolina Press and focuses on German and Austrian mountaineers in the Eastern Alps from the 1860s until the start of the Second World War. I examine how the tourism industry altered the Alps, both physically and symbolically. Massive construction projects carved the mountainside with roads and railways, much to the despair of conservationists and climbers alike. But Alpine clubs and tourist organizations also modified the peaks by civilizing the heights with maps, trails and lodges. Members of these groups projected their competing civic values and chauvinistic visions onto the Eastern Alps, making these mountains contested territory. Environmental change in the Eastern Alps tells us much about the transformations in modern Central European society, and challenges our assumptions about transnational space.

My second book, A Global Environmental History of the Great War, is under contract with Cambridge University Press. I focus on how energy schemes to fuel both bodies and machines linked the battle lines and home fronts with industry and agriculture in ways previously overlooked. While battlegrounds suffered from the storms of steel, the resulting distortions of nature were short-lived. Longer-term environmental change occurred away from the killing fields, in forests, furnaces, and garden furrows at home, and in evolving patterns of consumption and conservation the world over. The duration and scale of the conflict altered the arrangement, size, and orientation of energy regimes around the globe and led to new “material flows” of biomass and fossil fuels that revolutionized the management of natural resources. Since environmental transformations began before the start of hostilities and continued after the armistice, my work expands the traditional timeframe of the conflict and diminishes the distinction between war and peace.


Ph.D., History, Georgetown University
M.A., German and European Studies, Georgetown University
B.A., History, University of Rochester


History 105 – Disease and Epidemics
History 207 – Global Environmental History
History 217 – Age of Extremes:  European Cultures and Society in the 20th Century
History 229 – Imperial Russia
History 307 – Nature and War
History 327 – Germany at War
History 427 – The Great War
Environmental Studies and Sciences 150 – Environment and Society

Several of my courses contribute to the Environmental Studies minor at Rhodes College.
To learn more about the Environmental Studies Program click on the link below:

Selected Publications

Modernizing Mountains,” World History Connected (June 2011)
The Mountains Roar: The Alps during the Great War,” Environmental History (April 2009)


“World War I and the Environment.” 1914 and the Making of the Twentieth Century. Texas A&M University, September 2013.

“Great War – Mighty Mountain: The Environmental Legacy of the First World War in the Alps.” The Austrian Center for Environmental History, Vienna, October 2010.

“Where Sunday Lasts Forever: Urban Tourists in the Eastern Alps.” ForumAlpinum, Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich, October 2010.

“Glacial Bonds and Racial Peaks: The Alps and National Identities in Germany and Austria, 1871-1933.” Nature and Nation in Europe since 1860 International Workshop, Trento, September 2010.

“Battling the Mountains of Melancholy: Bodies and Minds on the Alpine Front, 1915-1918.” National World War One Memorial Museum, January 2009.