Andrew Needham

Associate Professor of History

University of Michigan, PhD 2006.

Office Address: 

King Juan Carlos Center, Room 711



Field of Study: 

United States

Research Interests: 

I specialize in recent United States history, with teaching and research emphases in environmental, American Indian, and urban and suburban history as well as the history of the American West.

Research Description:

Post-1945 US history, urban and suburban history, environmental history, southwestern and borderlands history, American Indian history, comparative social movements, history of the built environment, spatial change.


I am a historian of the twentieth century US who specializes in the relationship between urban life and the natural environment. Throughout my career, one central question has animated my work: how has urbanization spurred far-reaching changes in human societies and natural ecologies?

My recent book, Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest (Princeton University Press, 2014) explores the simultaneous transformation of Phoenix and the Navajo Nation in the years after World War II. In those years, Phoenix grew from a small agricultural center into a sprawling metropolis. The Navajo Nation was transformed as well, as coal mines, power plants, and electrical transmission lines were built to supply Southwestern consumers’ burgeoning demand for electricity. Examining the development of these two very different landscapes, Power Lines tells the story of the far-reaching environmental and social inequalities of metropolitan growth, and the roots of our contemporary coal-fueled climate change crisis. Power Lines has received five book prizes, including the George Perkins Marsh Prize for the best book in environmental history, the Caughey Prize for the best book in western history, and the Weber-Clements Prize for best non-fiction work on the American Southwest.

I am currently working on two new projects. The first, Engineering Sustainability: Nature and Technology in Urban America, is a history of urban infrastructure in the long twentieth century. It explores the reversal of the Chicago River, segregation of environmental nuisances in Los Angeles, the construction of Jones Beach off Long Island, the construction of BART in the San Francisco Bay area, and the expansion of Detroit’s water system into its suburbs in order to examine both how urban officials have used spatial expansion to solve environmental problems and how the resulting infrastructures have changed social and environmental communities. The second project, The Origins of the Climate Crisis: Metropolitanism and Energy Use in Postwar America explores the ways in which ideas and public policies that spurred metropolitan growth spurred climate change.

Selected Works:


"'A Piece of the Action': Navajo Leadership, Energy Development, and Decolonization," in Exploitation and Opportunity: Indians and Energy in the Southwest. Santa Fe: School of Advanced Research Press, forthcoming.

“The End of Public Power: “Tax Fairness” and the Politics of the Electric Utility Industry,” in What’s Good for Business: Business and Politics since World War II. Kimberly Philips-Fine and Julian Zelizer, eds. Oxford University Press, 2012.

 “Sunbelt Imperialism: Boosters, Navajos, and Energy Development in the Metropolitan Southwest,” in Sunbelt Rising: The Politics of Place, Space and Region in the American South and Southwest. Michelle Nickerson and Darren Dochuck, eds. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

“Beyond the Metropolis: Metropolitan Growth and Regional Transformation in Postwar America,” with Allen Dieterich-Ward. Journal of Urban History 35:7 (2009), 943-969. (Winner of the Urban History Association Award for best article of 2009)

"Power Lines: Urban-Hinterland Exchange and Indian Nationalism in the US Southwest ," in Exchange: Practices and Representations. Paris: University Paris-Sorbonne, 2005.


Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

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Updated on 03/14/2016