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Welcome Steve Beda!

Steven Beda earned his PhD from University of Washington in 2014. His dissertation was awarded the Labor and Working-Class History Association’s Herbert Gutman Prize. He taught part-time in the University of Oregon’s History Department for two years before joining the faculty full-time in 2017.

Beda studies labor history, environmental history, and Pacific Northwest history. He is particularly interested in the rural Pacific Northwest and the ways in which the rise and fall of the Northwest’s resource extraction economy shaped and reshaped rural working-class communities.

His current book project, Strong Winds and Widow Makers: A History of Workers, Nature, and Environmental Conflict in Pacific Northwest Timber Country, 1900-present (under contract with University of Illinois Press) reveals that Northwest timber workers have long been, and very much remain, committed environmentalists. Starting with the Northwest timber industry’s origins in the early twentieth century and following timber workers through the Depression, the union movements of the New Deal, the wilderness campaigns of the mid-twentieth century, and the debates over the Spotted Owl in the latter-twentieth century, Beda shows that timber workers have consistently pursued policies and politics aimed at conserving the forests and protecting wilderness. And yet, Beda shows, even as timber workers fought to protect the forests, they were often maligned and denegrated by activists in the mainstream environmental movement, leading to the often heated debates between environmentalists and rural working-class communities that are so frequent today. Beda’s work ultimately explains why, in recent history, the relationship between workers and environmentalists has been so fraught and suggests ways of thinking about work, nature, and conservation that could make this relationship less fraught in the future.

Beda has taught classes on Pacific Northwest history, Twentieth Century U.S. History, the Vietnam War, American film history, and the 1960s in America. He also served as an associate editor on the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project and is currently developing an on-line oral history project about environmental conflict in Oregon, featuring interviews with rural workers, environmentalists, and policy makers.

When not teaching in the classroom or conducting research in the archives, Beda can most often be found fishing on any one of Oregon’s great steelhead rivers.