Paradise Destroyed (Pre-Order Available Now)

Paradise Destroyed

About the book

Over a span of thirty years in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe endured natural catastrophes from all the elements—earth, wind, fire, and water—as well as a collapsing sugar industry, civil unrest, and political intrigue. These disasters thrust a long history of societal and economic inequities into the public sphere as officials and citizens weighed the importance of social welfare, exploitative economic practices, citizenship rights, racism, and governmental responsibility.

Paradise Destroyed explores the impact of natural and man-made disasters in the turn-of-the-century French Caribbean, examining the social, economic, and political implications of shared citizenship in times of civil unrest. French nationalists projected a fantasy of assimilation onto the Caribbean, where the predominately nonwhite population received full French citizenship and governmental representation. When disaster struck in the faraway French West Indies—whether the whirlwinds of a hurricane or a vast workers’ strike—France faced a tempest at home as politicians, journalists, and economists, along with the general population, debated the role of the French state, not only in the Antilles but in their own lives as well. Environmental disasters brought to the fore existing racial and social tensions and held to the fire France’s ideological convictions of assimilation and citizenship. Christopher M. Church shows how France’s “old colonies” laid claim to a definition of tropical French-ness amid the sociopolitical and cultural struggles of a fin de siècle France riddled with social unrest and political divisions.


“With a timely focus on environmental disaster and its political ramifications, Christopher Church has given us a highly original and multidisciplinary view of an understudied period in Caribbean history.”David Geggus, professor of history at the University of Florida and editor and translator of The Haitian Revolution: A Documentary History

“Christopher M. Church offers compelling short narratives of the various disasters that struck the colonies, and his analysis of the politics of relief is sophisticated and informative. . . . It is a book that will interest scholars in a wide range of fields, including French imperial studies and Caribbean history. It is also a welcome and significant contribution to the history of disasters.”Matthew Mulcahy, professor of history at Loyola University at Maryland and author of Hubs of Empire: The Southeastern Lowcountry and British Caribbean

“Christopher Church offers a richly researched, well-told, and insightful account of the political, economic, and social impact of natural disaster in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century French Antilles, profoundly deepening our understanding of these societies.”Laurent Dubois, Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University and author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History

“Trouble in paradise! In this engaging, innovative, and well-researched study, Christopher Church uses the history of disasters to explore interactions between environmental, colonial, and political history in the French West Indies. . . . Paradise Destroyed adds an important new dimension to the history of modern empire, showing how France’s ‘colonies of citizens’ could be both exotic and familiar, colonial and French at the same time.”—Tyler Stovall, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Transnational France: The Modern History of a Universal Nation

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Chapter 4: “The 1928 Hurricane in Florida and the Wider Caribbean” – Environmental Disaster in the Gulf South


The 1928 hurricane arrived during a time of change for the Gulf South and the wider Caribbean. Slavery had ended, to be replaced by poorly-paid industrial and agricultural wage labor and supplemented by inequitable state practices and institutionalized racism. The so-called American Century had begun, with the United States flexing its muscles in the West Indies and looking to develop the Floridian peninsula for economic gain. At the heyday of American expansionism and on the eve of the Great Depression, therefore, the 1928 hurricane intersected with ecological terraforming, short-term economic gains, social and racial inequity, and the development of the sugar industry. By tracing the hurricane’s entire path of destruction and its consequences across the Gulf South and Caribbean rather than focusing solely on Florida, this chapter provides a clearer picture of the peculiarities of the region in the 1920s, a greater appreciation of the ecological risks that framed everyday life in the Greater Caribbean Basin, and a better understanding of disasters and their transnational consequences.

Book Description:

Environmental disasters—including hurricanes, floods, oil spills, disease, and disappearing wetlands—trouble the Gulf South, an area of the United States that includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The contributors to Environmental Disaster in the Gulf South explore the threat, frequency, and management of this region’s disasters from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Scholars from the fields of history, sociology, and anthropology examine the underlying causes of vulnerability to natural hazards in the coastal states while also suggesting ways to increase resilience.

Greg O’Brien considers the New Orleans Flood of 1849; Andy Horowitz, the Galveston Storm of 1900; and Christopher M. Church, the 1928 hurricane in Florida and the Caribbean. Urmi Engineer Willoughby delves into the turn-of-the-century yellow fever outbreaks in New Orleans and local attempts to eradicate them, while Abraham H. Gibson and Cindy Ermus discuss the human introduction and long-term impact of invasive species on the region’s ecosystem. Roberto E. Barrios looks at political-ecological susceptibility in New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward, and Kevin Fox Gotham treats storm-and-flood-defense infrastructures. In his afterword, Ted Steinberg ponders what the future holds when the capitalist state supports an unwinnable battle between land developers and nature.

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UC BERKELEY: Computing and the Practice of History, April 13, 4:00PM TO 5:30PM


Visualizing Empire in the Age of Big Data: A Distant Reading of French Imperial Conquest, 1870-1914

APRIL 13, 2017 –
4:00PM TO 5:30PM

Lecture by Christopher M. Church, PhD, assistant professor, Department of History and co-director, Nevada Center for Data and Design in the Digital Humanities (NDAD), University of Nevada, Reno

Democracies have flexed their imperial muscle the world over since the onset of the nineteenth-century, when the French, and Europe more broadly, focused on empire-building as a way to achieve national glory and international security, shaping international relations into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Liberal ideology and the communication revolution have simultaneously enlarged the empires of Western democracies while serving as their most vocal critique. Consequently, it is incumbent upon scholars to investigate the historical relationship between empire and modern democracies, particularly between public policy, the press, and the populace in order to fully understand contemporary developments in these relationships.

To this end, this presentation will explain how creating interactive cartographic visualizations by text mining historical periodicals can enable scholars to analyze how cultural imagination informed political conquest. By performing “distant reading” on the popular French weekly, the Journal des Voyages, we can unearth the imperial narrative targeted not only at the reading public, but most interestingly the one endorsed for use in French schools. While visual text analysis holds great promise for gaining insights into how French newsprint portrayed colonized peoples and locales throughout the new imperial period, effective implementation requires interdisciplinary collaboration focused equally on data visualization, text analysis, machine learning, and humanities research questions. Therefore, this presentation addresses both the opportunities and challenges involved in performing a “distant reading” of historical periodicals in French, including maximizing insights from cleaned OCR data, aptly performing natural language processing on non-modern, non-English languages, and creating easy-to-use data visualizations that grapple with their source material’s inherent biases.





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Caribbean Earthquakes, 1840-1900 – BRGM Data

View Full Screen | Code and Data | Data Scraper

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Re-sizing a virtual drive without losing data in Linux

If you’re like me, sometimes you create a virtual machine without planning ahead with regard to space needs. If you aren’t like me, and all 4 partitions aren’t used up on your particular VM, you could easily add an additional partition without having to enlarge an existing one. However, if you are like me, your virtual hard-drive already has 4 partitions and it’s impossible to add another one. In this case, the easiest solution is to resize the drive and reformat. But what about all the data! If reformatting isn’t feasible for you, do not fret! It’s still possible to resize your virtual Linux drive without losing your data!

  1. Resize the virtual drive in VM management software; once this is done, you’ll notice that it doesn’t yet translate into a larger linux drive — this is because although the new drive has grown, the filesystem hasn’t grown to match it.
  2. fdisk -l (see what your drives are)
  3. fdisk /dev/sda (or whatever the virtual disk’s ID is — main disk, not an individual partition)
  4. p (print the partition table and take note of the 4th partition’s starting sector)
  5. d then 4 (delete the 4th partition)
  6. n then 4 (should default to 4 — create a new partition over the old one)
  7. p (make it a primary partition and make sure the first sector matches; the last should default to the new last sector of the “drive“)
  8. w (write the new partition table)
  9. resize2fs /dev/sda4 (re-size the file system to match the partition table for the 4th partition)

And poof! You’re all done! You should now have re-sized the underlying file system to match your new virtual drive’s size.

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HIST462: French Revolution

Echoes of the French Revolution

Professor Church
Department of History
University of Nevada, Reno

liberty By tearing down centuries of political and cultural tradition in the span of a few decades, the French Revolution ushered in the modern age and created the ideals of citizenship and national identity we know today. For over two centuries, the Revolution sent reverberations throughout France, Europe, and, vis-à-vis its empire, the entire world. By analyzing primary sources and path-breaking historical monographs, this course explores the political, cultural, and social repercussions of the French Revolution to the present day. The first half of the course will explore the Revolution, both in France and in the Atlantic World, and its demands for the satisfaction of three universal ideals: liberty, equality, and fraternity. The second half of the course explores the aftershocks of the French Revolution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as France built a global empire in which subjects employed France’s own revolutionary values to overthrow imperial subjugation.


20% — Weekly Participation
10% — Leading Discussion
15% — First Paper
15% — Midterm Exam
20% — Final Exam
20% — Final Paper

Required Texts to Purchase

(other texts noted in Schedule available on ARES)

  • Jeremy Popkin. 2009. History of Modern France. 4th ed. Pearson.
  • William Doyle. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Lynn Hunt, ed. 1996. The French Revolution and Human Rights. Palgrave-MacMillan.
  • Laurent Dubois. 2004. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Duke.

Selections Available on ARES

  • J.P. Daughton. 2008. Empire Divided. Stanford.
  • Eric Jennings. 2002. Vichy in the Tropics. Stanford.
  • Joan Scott. 2010. Politics of the Veil. Princeton.
  • Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks.
  • Jeremy Popkin, Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection

Student Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain the causes of the French Revolution: Enlightenment values, absolutism and royal privilege, debt, taxation, and famine.
  • Students will be able to evaluate the legacy of the French Revolution, particularly as it relates to colonial and political struggles of the nineteenth
    and twentieth centuries.
  • Students will be able to read, interpret, and analyze primary source texts with attention to content, historical and cultural context, genre, and


note: this schedule may change at the discretion of the professor

The French Revolution

  1. Introduction: The Old Regime (1/19 + 1/21)
    1. Lynn Hunt, “Introduction: the Revolutionary Origins of Human Rights,” The French Revolution and Human Rights, pp. 1-33.
    2. Doyle, “Echoes”
    3. (text­book) Popkin, chs. 1-5, pp. 1-35
  1. The Values of the Republic | Origins of the French Revolution (1/26 + 1/28)
    1. (Hunt) Sieyes, “What is the Third Estate?” (1789)
    2. (Hunt) “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789,” pp. 71-79.
    3. (ARES) Decrees Abolishing the Feudal System (1789)
    4. Doyle, “Why it Happened”
    5. (textbook) Popkin, ch. 6, pp. 36-41
  1. From Constitutional Monarchy to Democracy (2/2 + 2/4)
    1. (Hunt), “The Poor and the Propertied,” pp. 80-83; “Religious Minorities and Questionable Professions,” pp. 84-101.
    2. (textbook) Popkin, ch. 7, pp. 42-51.
  1. From Terror to Empire (2/9 + 2/11)
    1. (Hunt), “Women,” pp. 119-139.
    2. (textbook) Popkin, chs. 8-9, pp. 52-69.
  1. Revolutionary Rights: the Haitian Revolution (2/16 + 2/18)
    1. (Hunt), “Free Blacks and Slaves,” pp. 101-118.
    2. Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World, pp. 1-151.
  1. Haitian Revolution (2) and Napoleonic Wars (2/23 + 2/25)
    1. (ARES) Jeremy D. Popkin, Facing Racial Revolution, 59-92
    2. Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World, pp. 152-301.
    3. (textbook) Popkin, ch. 10, pp. 70-82.


  1. Ending the Revolution: from the Restoration to the July Monarchy (3/1 + 3/3)
    1. (ARES) The French Constitution, 1830
    2. (textbook) Popkin, ch. 11-12, pp. 82-101.
  1. Midterm (3/8 + 3/10)
    1. (ARES) Schwartz, Very Short Introduction


Echoes of the Revolution

  1. First as Tragedy, Then As Farce: 1848 to the Second Empire (3/15 + 3/17)
    1. (textbook) Popkin, chs. 13-14, pp. 102-124.
    2. (ARES) Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Chapter 1, 1852

SPRING BREAK (3/22 + 3/24)

  1. Third Republic (1870-1940) (3/29 + 3/31)
    1. (textbook) Popkin, ch. 17, pp. 142-150.
    2. (ARES) John Leighton: One Day Under the Paris Commune, 1871
    3. (ARES) Léon Gambetta (1838-82): The Belleville Manifesto, 1869
  1. Republican Empire-Building and the Civilizing Mission (4/5 + 4/7)
    1. (textbook) Popkin, chs. 18-19, pp. 151-178
    2. (ARES) Law on the Separation of Churches and State. 9 Dec 1905
    3. (ARES) Daughton, Empire Divided, pp. 3-58
  1. Republican Ideals and Nation-Building: 1870-1914 (4/12 + 4/14)
    1. (ARES) Ernst Renan, “What is a Nation?” (1882)
    2. (textbook) Popkin, ch. 20
    3. (ARES) Daughton, Empire Divided, pp. 227-266
  1. A New Revolution: Vichy and Decolonization (4/19 + 4/21)
    1. (ARES) Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks, ch.1 and 5
    2. (ARES) Jennings, Vichy in the Tropics, 1-30, 199-230
    3. (ARES) Ho Chi Minh, “Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam”
  1. The French Revolution Today (4/26 + 4/28)
    1. (ARES) Scott, Politics of the Veil, Intro
    2. Doyle, “Where it Stands”
    3. (textbook) Popkin, ch. 37



FINAL EXAM (Tuesday, 5/10 from 5p-7p)

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HIST 300a – Digitizing History

HIST 300a poster 2
HIST 300A – Digitizing History teaches how to conduct history projects in the 21st century through documentary film-making, web-design, and best practices in the digital humanities. Students will explore a variety of contemporary models for the production and consumption of historical information on the web — including commercial, non-profit, and government databases, as well as public history, journalistic, and other websites.  They will then create a documentary film using professional equipment, to be housed on an interactive website of their own creation.

Website, Syllabus, and Projects

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UNR Campus Conferences: Big Data



Christopher Church, Assistant Professor, History
NLP and OCR: the View from the Humanities Natural Language Processing (NLP) presents numerous opportunities for humanities research, particularly in the field of history. For one, NLP allows historians to overcome their current inability to look at cultural memes in context ­to see how much or frequently something was said relative to everything else that was said. Additionally, it enables historians to create maps of linguistic and cultural change over time, or to paint a synchronic picture of a particular decade, movement, or ideology. In short, it allows historians-and humanists more generally-to obtain a bird’s-eye view of their material. However, there are real challenges to performing NLP on historical documents, namely issues related to Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Rather than relying upon “born-digital;’ “found” or “curated” data sets, historians must create their data themselves from oftentimes spotty archives, degraded materials, or handwritten documents. This presentation will explore the importance of OCR to NLP in the humanities, while attending to the pitfalls of relying too heavily on curated data and proposing some ways to overcome the inherent messiness of the data with which humanists wrestle.

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Adding Unique Identifiers in OpenRefine

Sometimes you may want to add unique identifiers (UIDs) to your data in OpenRefine (eg. migrating the data into a Database Management System (DBMS) like Access or Filemaker).

It’s nice to have a set number of leading zeroes, especially if you’ll sort your data alphabetically.

To do this, you’ll need to add a new column based on any column, which will bring up a dialogue window.  Edit column > Add column based on this column…


For your GREL (Google Refine Expression Language) expression, enter the following:

      “0000”[0,4-row.index.length()] + row.index


* Make sure to enter a column name (above circled in blue).

* * *

Here’s what the GREL means:

  • row.index” is a controlled term for the number of the row counting from the top (beginning with 0)
  • “0000” is a string of four zeroes that will be spliced into the index.
  • row.index.length() is how many characters make up row.index (treating it as a string) — so “1981” would have a length of 4, whereas “30” would have a length of 2.
  • [0,4-row.index.length()] slices the string of zeroes to match however many are needed to bring the total number of numeric places to 4. If the index is “13” (length of 2 characters) and you want a total four numbers (0013), then it will take only 2 zeros from the string.
  • finally, “+ row.index” concatenates the original index to the preceding zeros. — so in the case of the above example, it’ll add together “00” and “13” to get “0013”

You can increase the number of leading zeroes to however many you need, but you’ll need to make a few changes.

  1. First, you’ll need to update “0000” to match however many number places you want.
  2. Then you’ll need to change 4-row.index…. to X-row.index….. — where X equals the number of number places.

For example, if you want to increase the total number places to 6, change the expression to

  • “000000”[0,6-row.index.length()] + row.index
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Digital Humanities at Berkeley, Summer Institute


This workshop will discuss methods of data retrieval, data cleaning, and visualization.  Participants will discuss how websites are structured and learn how to collect a data set with webscraping.  Participants will learn how to use tools like OpenRefine for cleaning and transforming data and then visualize data using Gephi, an open source tool for network analysis.

Syllabus – Network Analysis


Christopher Church is an assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno. Before joining the history department at UNR, he was the Program Coordinator at UC Berkeley’s D-Lab. He studies colonialism, citizenship, and environmental history. He is well versed in databases, GIS, scripting, network analysis, and web design. He is tasked with developing a digital humanities curriculum at UNR.



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