Jackson Perry is a visiting lecturer in the History Department at George Washington University. He completed a PhD in History at Georgetown University in 2021. Jackson previously worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the New York Botanical Garden. His research focuses on the modern environmental history of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region, in trans-regional and global perspectives. Jackson’s PhD thesis, “The Gospel of the Gum: Eucalyptus Enthusiasm and the Modern Mediterranean World, 1848-1896,” recently received the Harold N. Glassman Award for the best dissertation in the humanities at Georgetown. He holds an MA in Near Eastern Studies from New York University.
He is working on his book manuscript, The Tree of the Future: Eucalyptus Enthusiasm and the Modern Mediterranean World, which follows the Australian Eucalyptus tree genus as it became ubiquitous across landscapes in the Middle East, North Africa, California, and Mediterranean Europe in the nineteenth century. “Gum fever” peaked in these lands in the 1860s and 1870s, when many scientists, wielders of state power and capital, and laypeople became convinced that the quick-growing, odorous tree could counteract malaria. Now the second-most planted tree in the world and a primary source of the much of the world’s paper and pulp, eucalyptus began its recent rise to prominence as a “fever tree” in the Mediterranean. While the discovery of the malaria parasite and the mosquito’s role in its spread—scientific work that also took place in the Mediterranean world—soon dampened the widespread clamor for the tree, the eucalyptus that still cover the lowland landscapes of North Africa, Palestine, and Mediterranean Europe are a material legacy of everyday struggles with malaria in those societies.