Historian, anthropologist studied environmental history of the Conquest

Elinor G. K. Melville, 66, a professor in York’s Department of History and the Faculty of Environmental Studies since 1988, died March 10 after a long battle with cancer. A pioneering interdisciplinary scholar of history and anthropology, Melville earned her PhD in anthropology at the University of Michigan in 1983.

Her first book, A Plague of Sheep (Cambridge University Press, 1994) won the 1995 Bolton Prize of the American Historical Association for its path-breaking analysis of the relationship between environmental change and the Conquest through a case study of the sixteenth-century desertification of the Valle de Mezquital, Mexico, by imported European flora and fauna. Subsequently her interest in enviromental history extended to include economic history, reflected in numerous articles, including a chapter in the just-published Cambridge Economic History of Latin America. Her continued commitment to the environmental history of the Conquest and early colonial periods led her to complete a text on the subject for the University of New Mexico Press, to be published posthumously.

A loving friend, brilliant teacher and generous colleague as well as an important scholar, Melville will be greatly missed. A memorial service will be held today at 7pm at the Simple Alternative, 275 Lesmill Rd., in Toronto.