Thomas Le Roux

Thomas Le Roux is Associate Professor of Research in History at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and coauthor (with François Jarrige) of The Contamination of the Earth (MIT Press). Jarrige and Béatrice Delaurenti are Directors of the Center for Historical Research (CRH, Centre de recherches historiques) of the EHESS.

  • Cultures of Contagion

    A Glossary

    Béatrice Delaurenti and Thomas Le Roux

    Contagion as process, metaphor, and timely interpretive tool, from antiquity to the twenty-first century.

    Cultures of Contagion recounts episodes in the history of contagions, from ancient times to the twenty-first century. It considers contagion not only in the medical sense but also as a process, a metaphor, and an interpretive model—as a term that describes not only the transmission of a virus but also the propagation of a phenomenon. The authors describe a wide range of social, cultural, political, or anthropological instances through the prism of contagion—from anti-Semitism to migration, from the nuclear contamination of the planet to the violence of Mao's Red Guard.

    The book proceeds glossary style, with a series of short texts arranged alphabetically, beginning with an entry on aluminum and “environmental contagion” and ending with a discussion of writing and “textual resemblance” caused by influence, imitation, borrowing, and plagiarism. The authors—leading scholars associated with the Center for Historical Research (CRH, Centre de Recherches Historique), Paris, consider such topics as the connection between contagion and suggestion, “waltzmania” in post-Terror Paris, the effect of reading on sensitive imaginations, and the contagiousness of yawning. They take two distinct approaches: either examining contagion and what it signified contemporaneously, or deploying contagion as an interpretive tool. Both perspectives illuminate unexpected connections, unnoticed configurations, and invisible interactions.


    Stéphane Baciocchi, Jean Baumgarten, Pablo Blitstein, Olof Bortz. Patrice Bourdelais, Diane Carron, Jean-Pierre Cavaillé, Elizabeth Claire, Yves Cohen, Vincent Debiais, Béatrice Delaurenti, Pierre-Olivier Dittmar, Maria Cecilia D'Ercole, Marie-Elizabeth Ducreux, Catherine Fhima, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, Nancy L. Green, Benoît Grévin, Sebastian Grevsmühl, Florence Hachez-Leroy, Élise Haddad, Marcella Iacub, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Thomas Le Roux, Judith Lyon-Caen, Catarina Madeira-Santos, Ariane Mak, Sébastien Malaprade, Perrine Mane, Davide Mano, Niccolò Mignemi, Raphaël Morera, Natalia Muchnik, Ron Naiweld, Sofia Navarro Hernandez, Hugo Perina, Thomas Piketty, Marie Anne Polo de Beaulieu, Dinah Ribard, Suzanne Rochefort, Paul-André Rosental, Antoine Roullet, Sergi Sancho Fibla, Nicolas Sarzeaud, Jean-Claude Schmitt, Silvia Sebastiani, Alessandro Stanziani, Frédéric Vagneron, Sebastian Veg, Mickaël Wilmart

    • Hardcover $27.95
  • The Contamination of the Earth

    The Contamination of the Earth

    A History of Pollutions in the Industrial Age

    François Jarrige and Thomas Le Roux

    The trajectories of pollution in global capitalism, from the toxic waste of early tanneries to the poisonous effects of pesticides in the twentieth century.

    Through the centuries, the march of economic progress has been accompanied by the spread of industrial pollution. As our capacities for production and our aptitude for consumption have increased, so have their byproducts—chemical contamination from fertilizers and pesticides, diesel emissions, oil spills, a vast “plastic continent” found floating in the ocean. The Contamination of the Earth offers a social and political history of industrial pollution, mapping its trajectories over three centuries, from the toxic wastes of early tanneries to the fossil fuel energy regime of the twentieth century.

    The authors describe how, from 1750 onward, in contrast to the early modern period, polluted water and air came to be seen as inevitable side effects of industrialization, which was universally regarded as beneficial. By the nineteenth century, pollutants became constituent elements of modernity. The authors trace the evolution of these various pollutions, and describe the ways in which they were simultaneously denounced and permitted. The twentieth century saw new and massive scales of pollution: chemicals that resisted biodegradation, including napalm and other defoliants used as weapons of war; the ascendancy of oil; and a lifestyle defined by consumption. In the 1970s, pollution became a political issue, but efforts—local, national, and global—to regulate it often fell short. Viewing the history of pollution though a political lens, the authors also offer lessons for the future of the industrial world.

    • Hardcover $39.95
    • Paperback $19.95