Matthew Booker

Associate Professor

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Ph. D., History, Stanford University, 2005

M.S., Environmental Studies, University of Oregon, 1997

B.A., History, University of California, Berkeley, 1991




Personal Introduction

My work examines the intersection between human beings and the natural world in North America, with a particular focus on the coastal regions. My book Down by the Bay: San Francisco's History between the Tides (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2013), is the first history of the West's largest estuary and oldest and densest city. In my current project, I am researching the history of the oyster industry in the United States during the industrial and urban revolutions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Oysters are a window onto a bigger transformation, which I imagine as "why did urban Americans lose faith in local food in the twentieth century?" I began writing up that research in summer 2014 as a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center, Munich. With Chad Ludington I am editing a new volume in food history, Food Fights: How the Past Matters to Contemporary Food Debates, which builds on a national food history conference we organized in 2012.

Grant-funded projects underway and in development include creating a video history archive of the first generation of genetic engineers, regulators and critics, funded by the NC State Center for Genetic Engineering and Society and the NC State libraries; a pending proposal to the National Science Foundation to create an Archive of Agricultual Genetic Engineering and Society; and a proposal to assist Southeast-region public land managers in decision-making for cultural resources during climate change. With Michael Young in Computer Science, I coordinate the Visual Narrative cluster in the Chancellor's Faculty Excellence Program.

I joined the N.C. State History Department in August 2004. I have offered courses in modern U.S. history, American environmental history, the history of suburbs, the history of the global revolutions of 1968, historical methods, digital history, and a graduate writing seminar. I have also taught courses for doctoral students in the National Science Foundation-funded graduate training program in genetic engineering and society.

A native of Northern California, I descend from Maine businesspeople (by way of Bellingham, Washington) on my mother's side and Virginia tobacco farmers (by way of Independence, Texas) on my father's side. I have been through a variety of educational institutions, including an inner-city nursery school, grades K-8 in a tiny rural school, a suburban Catholic high school, the University of California at Berkeley, Hindu College at the University of Delhi, India, the University of Oregon in Eugene, the University of Washington in Seattle, and Stanford University. Before, during and between schools, I have worked with varying success as a bus driver, wine server, carpenter, landscaper, tile-setter's assistant, title insurance examiner, field ecologist, and newspaper editor.


Teaching Interests

Environmental History, Twentieth Century United States, Urban History, Digital History, Food History, History of the American West, History of Technology


Rachel Jacobson
Gabriel Lee, Stanford University
Neil Oatsvall, PhD, University of Kansas
Dean Bruno, Vanderbilt University
Rob Shapard, University of North Carolina
Laura Hepp Bradshaw, Carnegie Mellon University
Shane Cruise, MA, Northwestern University
Jesse Hall, MA, NC State University
Stacy Roberts, University of California at Davis

Graduate Advisees

Course repertoire

  • HI 252
    Modern American History
  • HI 440
    American Environmental History
  • HI 598
    Historical Writing
  • HI599
    Practice of Digital History

Recent Work & Publications

  • Down by the Bay: San Francisco’s History between the Tides. University of California Press, June 30, 2013
  • “Saltworks and Shorelines: a Visual and Social History of the San Francisco Bay, with Cris Benton (UC Berkeley).” Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, San Francisco. (March 12, 2014)
  • “Intimacies of Time and Place: San Francisco Bay Past and Future.” The Exploratorium Science Center, San Francisco. (October 23, 2014)
  • “Some Lessons from the Rise, Collapse and Revival of the American Oyster.” Understanding Ecology through the Humanities: From the Wild to Post-collapse University of Zurich, Switzerland. (June 16-19, 2014)
  • “Why did Urban Americans Stop Eating Locally in the 20th Century?.” Rachel Carson Center, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. (July 10, 2014)
  • “Visualizing Spatial History in San Francisco Bay.” American Society for Environmental History, Digital Urban Environmental Histories. Madison, WI. (March 31, 2012)
  • “Consider the Oyster: Industrial-era Live Food Commodities.” Organization of American Historians/National Council of Public Historians, Making Use of Nature: How Resources Became Commodities in America during the Nineteenth Century. Milwaukee, WI. (April 10, 2012)
  • “Why is a Historian Interested in Oysters?.” Organization of American Historians/National Council of Public Historians, Roundtable: Assessing the Spatial Turn in U.S. History. Milwaukee, WI. (April 10, 2012)
  • “A Bay Runs Through It.” American Society for Environmental History, Roundtable: Writing Environment and History in San Francisco Bay. San Francisco, CA. (March 13, 2014)
  • “Chair and comment.” American Society for Environmental History, Curating Environmental History: A Case Study of “Above and Below: Stories of Our Changing Bay”. San Francisco, CA. (March 13, 2014)
  • “Oyster Panics: Placing Responsibility for Food Safety in the 20th Century.” American Society for Environmental History, Local, Global, Organic: Three Stories about Managing Food. Washington, DC. (March 21, 2015)
  • “San Francisco Bay\'s Edible Past as a Shared Problem for Ecologists and Historians.” Ecology and Evolution Seminar, UC Davis Davis, CA. (March 12, 2015)
  • “The Century-Old Origins of Our Contemporary Food Debates.” Environments and Societies Seminar, UC Davis Davis, CA. (March 11, 2015)

Contact Information

  • Office Location

    274 Withers Hall

  • Phone: 919.513.1431
  • Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
  • Twitter: @MatthewMBooker
  • Website: Matthew Booker's Website
  • Office Hours

    SPRING 2015


Current Semester

HI 599-004
W   130-415PM
WI 243

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350 Withers Hall, Campus Box 8108, Raleigh, NC 27695-8108
Phone: 919.515.2483 Fax: 919.515.3886

College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of History