The Little Compton Historical Society will hold their annual meeting on Wednesday, August 14 at 7 pm at the United Congregational Church on the Commons. The event is free and open to the public.
After a 15-minute business meeting and the election of officers and board members, Professor Christopher Pastore, Associate Professor of History at the University at Albany, State University of New York, will discuss his new book, “Between Land and Sea” and the many ways European settlement has transformed Narragansett Bay since the 1600s. As one of the largest estuaries on the North Atlantic coast, Narragansett Bay served as a gateway for colonial expansion in the seventeenth century and the birthplace of American industrialization in the late eighteenth. Professor Pastore will present an environmental history of this watery corner of the Atlantic world, beginning with the first European settlement in 1636 and ending with the dissolution of the Blackstone Canal Company in 1849. Between Land and Sea traces how the Bay’s complex ecology shaped the contours of European habitation, trade, and resource use, and how settlers in turn reconfigured the physical and cultural boundaries between humans and nature.
Narragansett Bay emerges in Pastore’s account as much more than a geological formation. Rather, he reimagines the meeting of land and sea as a brackish borderland shaped by the tension between what English settlers saw as improvable land and the perpetual forces of the North Atlantic Ocean. By draining swamps, damming rivers, and digging canals, settlers transformed a marshy coastal margin into a clearly defined edge. The resultant “coastline” proved less resilient, less able to absorb the blows of human initiative and natural variation than the soggy fractal of water and earth it replaced.
Today, as sea levels rise and superstorms batter coasts with increasing ferocity, Professor Pastore’s Between Land and Sea calls on the environmentally-minded to make a space in their notions of progress for impermanence and uncertainty in the natural world.
A social hour following the talk will offer refreshments and the opportunity to purchase signed copies of “Between Land and Sea” as well as copies of the Historical Society’s new book “Little Compton a Changing Landscape.”
Rhode Island native, Christopher L. Pastore teaches courses in environmental history, early America, and the Atlantic world. He holds a Ph.D. in American History and M.S. in college teaching from the University of New Hampshire, a B.A. in Biology from Bowdoin College, and M.F.A. in nonfiction Creative Writing from New School University, where he has taught writing composition since 2003. He is also currently a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute at Trinity College Dublin, where he is combing through the archive for sources about salty environments.
Pastore grew up sailing, fishing and exploring Narragansett Bay. His journalistic work has appeared in the New York Times, Boat International, Cruising World, Newport Life, Offshore, Restoration Quarterly, Real Simple, and Sailing World, where he worked as Associate Editor. He also served as Editor of American Sailor and Junior Sailor, the official publications of U.S. Sailing, the sport’s national governing body. In 2005, he published a biography of Rhode Island yacht designer Nathanael G. Herreshoff (1848-1938) titled Temple to the Wind: The Story of America’s Greatest Naval Architect and His Masterpiece, Reliance (Lyons Press), early selections from which earned him the 2003 National Arts Club Annual Award for Nonfiction.
For more information please call the Historical Society at 401-635-4035.