Sarah S. Elkind

New Research Projects and Publications


Water Resource Policy and Irrigation Development in Spain.

Photo:  Beth Holmberg, El Villar Dam, Lozoyuela, Spain, 2007

Both Spain and the United States inaugurated ambitious national irrigation programs in the early twentieth century. Key advocates of irrigation saw these programs as important to their country's economic future, but essential to building a strong, culturally coherent nation. My research examines local reactions to irrigation projects in Spain, the ways Spanish and American irrigation advocates influenced each other, and their different understanding of what nation-building in the early twentieth century required.

Public History, Memory and the Construction of National Culture.

Photo:  Beth Holmberg, Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Denmark, 2009

Historical parks and museums present visitors with vivid representations of history and culture. The events and ideas that parks and museums choose to emphasize contribute a great deal to visitors' understanding of local or national identity. In this project, I will compare historical sites in Europe and the United States to identify how their educational programming shapes (and is shaped by) national identity and values.



Major Publications:


How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy: Business, Power and Environment in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles, University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

This book uses the history of oil drilling, air pollution control, and flood control in Los Angeles, along with the national debates over hydroelectric power development at Hoover Dam, and national water resources planning to explain how business groups came to dominate local politics, and how then how local policies came to shape federal programs. It explores a crucial moment in American politics, when the American business community convinced the American public that the federal government represented a greater threat to the public interest than did the private sector.

Bay Cities and Water Politics: The Battle for Resources in Boston and Oakland, 1880-1930, University Press of Kansas, 1998.

This comparison of regional urban public works in Massachusetts and California shows that urban residents embraced new political institutions, taxes and services only when they believed that water or sanitation failures contributed to larger social problems, such as epidemic disease and social disorder in Boston, or economic stagnation and loss of local autonomy in Oakland. This book has been widely praised a model of comparative history and political analysis. It received the Public Works Historical Society’s Abel Wolman book award in 1999.

Public Works and Public Health: Reflections on Urban Politics and Environment, 1880-1925, in Essays in Public Works History, no. 19, Public Works Historical Society, 1999.

"The Energy Capital of Southern California: Los Angeles," for Energy Capitals, ed. by Martin Melosi, Joseph Pratt and Kathleen Brosnan, University of Pittsburgh Press, in press.

"Oil and the City: The Fall and Rise of Oil Drilling in Los Angeles," Journal of American History, 99:1 (2012).

"The Nature and Business of War: Drilling for Oil in Wartime Los Angeles," in Cities in Nature: Urban Environments of the American West, Essays in Honor of Hal K. Rothman, ed. by Char Miller, University of Nevada Press, 2010.

"Environmental Inequality and the Urbanization of West Coast Watersheds," Pacific Historical Review, 75:1 (2006).

For more information about my research and publications, see my curriculum vitae.