Eric Ash was born and raised in upstate New York; he has taught at Wayne State since the fall of 2002 and is the current Director of Graduate Studies. His teaching and research interests broadly include the history of Britain and Ireland, early modern Europe (16th and 17th centuries), the history of science & technology, and environmental history. He is interested in working with qualified graduate students in any of these fields. Dr. Ash is married, and has two children.
Research interest(s)/area of expertise
History of Science and Technology
Early Modern Europe
Dr. Ash's publications to date have concentrated on issues of expertise, experts, and expert cultures in early modern England and Europe. Dr. Ash's most recent book, entitled The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England, is a detailed examination of the drainage and reclamation of the English Fens during the seventeenth century. The project brings together important themes and issues from political history, social history, environmental history, and the history of technology. His first book, Power, Knowledge, and Expertise in Elizabethan England, explored the role of “expert mediators” in facilitating English state formation and centralized governance during the latter sixteenth century, with particular attention to technical undertakings such as copper mining, harbor construction, and mathematical navigation. He is also the editor of a volume of the prestigious history of science journal Osiris, which presented a number of case studies of expertise in the service of the state throughout early modern Europe.
Dr. Ash's current research project is a study of the early English plantations in Ireland (c. 1570-1660), particularly the English planters' perceptions of the Irish landscape and their efforts to "improve" and exploit it.
- A.B., Harvard University, 1994
- M.A, Princeton University, 1996
- Ph.D., Princeton University, 2000
Awards and grants
Dibner Fellowship in the History of Science, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, 2013-14
President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Wayne State University, 2008-09
Career Development Chair Award, Wayne State University, 2007-08
National Science Foundation Scholar’s Award, Science and Technology Studies Division, 2002-04 (SES-0301851)
Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Award, Wayne State University 2018
Outstanding Graduate Director, Wayne State University, 2019
- The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).
- Power, Knowledge, and Expertise in Elizabethan England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).
Articles & Chapters:
- “By Any Other Name: Early Modern Expertise and the Problem of Anachronism,” History and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/07341512.2019.1608082
- “Reclaiming a New World: Fen Drainage, Improvement, and Projectors in Seventeenth-Century England,” Early Science and Medicine 21 (2016): 445-69.
- “Expertise and the Early Modern State,” Osiris 25 (2010): 1-24.
- “Amending Nature: Draining the English Fens,” in The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation, ed. Lissa Roberts, Simon Schaffer, and Peter Dear (Edita and University of Chicago Press, 2007), 117-143.
- “Navigation Techniques and Practice in the Renaissance,” in The History of Cartography, vol. 3,Cartography in the European Renaissance, ed. by David Woodward (University of Chicago Press, 2007), 509-527.
- “Trading Expertise: Sebastian Cabot between Spain and England” (co-authored with Alison Sandman), Renaissance Quarterly 57 (2004): 813-846.
- “‘A note and a Caveat for the Merchant’: Mercantile Advisors in Elizabethan England,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 33 (2002): 1-31.
- “Queen v. Northumberland, and the Control of Technical Expertise,” History of Science 39 (2001): 215-240.
- “‘A perfect and an absolute work’: Expertise, Authority, and the Rebuilding of Dover Harbor, 1579-1583,” Technology and Culture 41 (2000): 239-268.
On leave in fall 2020
- HIS 3000, "Historians' Craft," 3 credits
- HIS 5407 / HON 4250, "The Scientific Revolution," 3 credits
- HIS 5550, "Britain: 1485-1714," 4 credits
- HIS 5555, "Britain in the Age of Empire," 4 credits
- HIS 5556, "Modern Britain," 4 credits
- HIS 8235, Graduate Seminar, "Early Modern Europe," 3 credits