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Sandwell, Ruth W. "History as Experiment: Microhistory and Environmental History." In Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental History, edited by Alan McEachern and William Turkel, 122-36. Toronto: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2008.


In this chapter, Sandwell defines and discusses the “community-based study” type of microhistory, and then uses it to analyze environmental history as she argues that “microhistory offers an ‘ecosystem approach’ to understanding people in their environments” due to the nature of its unique methodology and epistemology. She used her own microhistorical study of Saltspring Island, BC to provide evidence for her thesis, unpacking her process as an historian step by step. She then provides three guiding questions for those who want to undertake a microhistory of a particular place and links them to the specific demands of environmental history: first, how can the place be distinguished from others, e.g. political boundaries may not make sense to use; second, is there enough valid and reliable documentation to answer the widely varied questions that will be asked; and third, is the place small enough so the minutiae of everyday life can be observed? She concludes: “Microhistory offers environmental history a focus and a process, just as environmental history offers microhistory the opportunity to pay more attention to the particularities of the physical world, augmenting our understanding of the relations among people and places.”

Shannon Leggett