This article calls for increased dialogue between social and environmental historians through an examination of the unintended inequalities caused by New Deal relief efforts in the United States during the Great Depression era. It does so not by exploring those directly involved in New Deal relief programmes, but rather by analysing the impact of such programmes on residents of local communities situated near New Deal work project sites. In particular, it traces how a dozen Civilian Conservation Corps camps in a state park thirty miles from New York City transformed the local environment, and in turn influenced the economies and political relationships of nearby local communities. The article argues that while working-class residents were unable to benefit financially from nearby New Deal relief work, middle- and upper-class business owners proved more successful. As a result of such economic inequalities, while working-class locals became increasingly critical of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, middle- and upper-class residents became grudgingly supportive. The article concludes by urging both social and environmental historians to undertake ‘histories from the ground up’ that pay as much attention to nature as they do to race, class, ethnicity and gender.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental history
- Franklin Roosevelt
- New deal
- Social history