Dr Megan Black

Dr Megan Black

Assistant Professor

Department of International History

+44 (0)20 7955 7906
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Key Expertise
US and the World, Environmental History, 19th-20th C. US History

About me

*U.S. Foreign Policy and International Security Fellow at the John Sloan Dickey Centre for International Understanding, Dartmouth College, 2019/20*

Dr Megan Black is assistant professor of International History with research interests in the United States and the world, environmental history, and political economy. Her current research explores the role of the U.S. Department of the Interior in spearheading the pursuit of minerals beyond U.S. formal sovereignty in indigenous lands, formal US territories, nations throughout the global South, the oceans, and outer space. In the process, the Interior Department forged powerful linkages between the histories of US settler colonialism and US global reach. Her book manuscript, The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power, was released by Harvard University Press in October 2018 and won the 2018 George Perkins Marsh Prize, the 2019 British Association for American Studies Book Prize, and the 2019 Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize.

Dr Black received her PhD in American Studies at The George Washington University. She undertook postdoctoral work as a fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. She was a finalist for the Organization of American Historian’s Louis Pelzer Memorial Prize and the American Studies Association’s Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize for Best Dissertation. Her work has been supported by grants from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, Harry S. Truman Library, and Lyndon B. Johnson Library.

Expertise Details

US and the World; Environmental History; Political Economy; Nineteenth and Twentieth Century US History

Teaching & supervision

Dr Megan Black usually teaches the following courses in the Department:

At undergraduate level:

HY245: The United States and the World since 1776

At postgraduate level:

HY479: Environmental History in a Global Context

Watch Dr Megan Black talk about her courses, how they are structured and how students can benefit from taking them in order to better understand the world we live in today.



News & media

• Megan Black, "Interior Imperialism: Fossil Fuels, American Expansion, and Rebel Park Rangers," n+1, March 28, 2017.

• Timothy Nunan, "Global Interior: A Conversation with Megan Black about the US Interior Department in the American World Order," Toynbee Prize Foundation Global History Forum, March 16, 2017.


Third award for The Global Interior

Dr Megan Black received the Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize for best first book in the history of international relations from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). This is the third book prize for The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power, which was also awarded the 2018 George Perkins Marsh Prize and the 2019 British Association for American Studies Book Prize.



Review of The Global Interior

Dr Black received a glowing review of her latest book The Global Interior last week in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Reviewer Dexter Fergie writes that by zooming in on the work of this important but too easily forgotten agency, Dr Black’s book deftly arranges the last century and a half of American history in fresh and useful ways, informed by a few pioneering studies. She reads the Spanish-American War alongside space satellites and places the American Indian Movement next to OPEC. Most notably, though, her book allows us to see how settler colonialism served as the staging ground for the United States’s rise to its superpower status. Read the full review.


New article in Modern American History

Dr Black's new article, “Scene/Unseen: Mining for ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’’s Critique of American Capitalist Exploitation in Mexico” (2:1), discusses the film’s little-recognised but vibrant critique of American power and capitalist exploitation in twentieth-century Mexico. This analysis lies below the surface, buried in the subtext of the film’s onscreen action and hidden beneath layers of its production and censorship. Read it with open access here.


Second award for The Global Interior

Dr Megan Black's book, The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power received the George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book in environmental history in 2018. The prize is awarded by the American Society of Environmental Historians (ASEH) and hers was selected from 95 books also submitted. This is the second prize Dr Black has received for her debut book. Earlier this year, The Global Interior was the winner of the 2019 British Association for American Studies Book Prize. 


Picture: Dr Black with ASEH president Professor Graeme Wynn (center), and prize committee chair Professor Ellen Griffith Spears (right)


The Global Interior wins book award

The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power (Harvard University Press, 2018) has won the annual British Association for American Studies (BAAS) prize for best book. The prize committee commented that this was an accomplished account of the US Interior Department’s support for extractive capitalism in the US and the wider world, offering a highly original analysis of how federal bureaucrats employed by the US Geological Survey, the Bureau of Mines, and other Interior agencies served the needs of the state, settler colonialism, and corporate capital on the expanding mineral frontier.


New piece in Modern American History blog

Dr Black contributed a post to the Cambridge Core “Modern American History” blog entitled "Appetite for Destruction? Making Sense of the Interior Department’s Request to Destroy Files" (5 November). The article discusses the US Department of Interior’s recent request to destroy an unspecified number of files, including those related to the management of natural resources – energy and minerals, fishing and wildlife, and national parks – and Native American affairs. The news of this plan was flagged by transparency agencies, and has prompted a debate among academics, archivists, and others concerned about the nature and potential impact of this request.


New book, The Global Interior

Dr Megan Black newest book, The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power, was released by Harvard University Press in October 2018. The Global Interior provides a detailed analysis of how, throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the US Department of the Interior cultivated and exploited its image as an innocuous scientific-research and environmental-management organisation in order to drive and satisfy America's insatiable demand for raw materials. Interior continues to operate in indigenous lands by coal mining and oil leasing, it pushes the boundaries of territoriality through offshore drilling, and in the guise of sharing expertise with the underdeveloped world, it has led lithium surveys in Afghanistan, among other activities abroad. Indeed, Interior is more than global: the department now manages a satellite that prospects natural resources in outer space!


BBC article

Dr Megan Black contributed to a BBC News article on "US economy under Trump: Is it the best in history?" on 19 October. The Reality Check team at the BBC decided to test the oft repeated claim by President Trump that the US economy is the best it’s ever been. The verdict? Yes, the economy has been doing well – but there have been periods when it was even stronger.


New Books Network podcast

In anticipation of the release of her first book later this month, The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power, Dr Megan Black has been featured on the New Books Network podcast (2 October) to discuss her research on the US Department of the Interior. The book explores the role of the US Department of the Interior, a government organ best known for managing domestic natural resources and operating national parks, in supporting and projecting American power. Listen to the podcast.