David trained as a historian and specialist in Russian and East European Studies at the universities of Newcastle and Birmingham in the UK and Leningrad State University in the USSR. He has taught history at the universities of Texas at Austin, USA, and Newcastle, Strathclyde in Glasgow, Durham, and York in the UK. In addition, he has held visiting research positions at several institutions in the Russian Federation and the United States, including the Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.


David’s main areas of research are Russian, Ukrainian, Eurasian, North American, and transnational environmental history. His particular interest is the Eurasian steppe that extends across Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan. He is completing a book on transfers of crops, agricultural sciences and techniques from the steppes to the Great Plains of the United States between the 1870s and 1930s. He is also co-editing a collection of essays on environmental history based on field trips by an international group of scholars to various locations in Russia, including Solovki and Lake Baikal. Both these projects were funded by the Leverhulme Trust. His last book was an environmental history of the steppe region, which was awarded the Alec Nove Prize for 2013. Earlier, he worked on the history of the peasantry and serfdom in the Russian Empire. David has published extensively in English and is grateful for the opportunity to publish regularly in Russian and Ukrainian.


Publications (Selected)


  • Books (authored)


The Plough that Broke the Steppes: Agriculture and Environment on Russia’s Grasslands, 1700-1914 (Oxford University Press, 2013)


The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia 1762-1907 (Longman, 2001)


The Russian Peasantry 1600-1930: The World the Peasants Made (Addison Wesley

Longman, 1999)


Russian Peasants and Tsarist Legislation on the Eve of Reform: Interaction between

Peasants and Officialdom 1825-1855 (Macmillan, 1992)


  • Books (edited)


with Peter Coates and Paul Warde, Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of

Environmental Change in Britain and Beyond (Windgather Press, 2016)


  • Articles


‘Agronomiya stepi: razvitie “sukhogo zemledeliya” v Rossiiskoi imperii’, Vestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo Universiteta, Seriya 2, Istoriya, vol.63, no.2 (2018): 378-96 [in Russian]


with Edward R. Landa, ‘The Centenary of the Journal Soil Science: Reflections on the Discipline in the United States and Russia Around a Hundred Years ago’, Soil Science, vol.182, no.6 (2017): 203-215


‘The Curious Case of the Marginalization or Distortion of Russian and Soviet Environmental History in Global Environmental Histories’, International Review of Environmental History, vol.3, no.2 (2017): 31-50


‘Cultivating the Steppe: The Origins of Mennonite Farming Practices in the Russian Empire’, Journal of Mennonite Studies, vol.35 (2017): 251-78


‘Steppe by Steppe: Exploring Environmental Change in Southern Ukraine’, Global Environment, vol.9 (2016): 414-39


‘In the Russians’ Steppes: The Introduction of Russian Wheat on the Great Plains of the United States of America’, Journal of Global History, vol.3 (2008): 203-225


(Russian translation: ‘Introduktsiya russkoi pshenitsy na Velikikh Ravninakh Soedinennykh Shtatov Ameriki’, in Amerikanskii Ezhegodnik 2011: 161-76)


‘The Environmental History of the Russian Steppes: Vasilii Dokuchaev and the Harvest Failure of 1891', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol.15 (2005): 149-174


(Russian translation: ‘Ekologicheskaya istoriya rossiiskikh stepei: Vasilii Dokuchaev i neurozhai 1891 g.’, Voprosy istorii estestvoznaniya i tekhniki (2009), no.3, pp.48-71)


‘Peasant Migration and the Settlement of Russia's Frontiers 1550-1897', Historical Journal,

vol.40 (1997): 859-93


‘Reassessing Russian Serfdom', European History Quarterly, vol.26 (1996): 483-526


  • Essays in edited volumes


‘The Grasslands of North America and Russia’, in J.R. McNeill and Erin Stewart Mauldin (eds), A Companion to Global Environmental History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 247-62


(Ukrainian translation: ‘Степи Північної Америки та Росії’, Наукові праці історичного факультету Запорізького національного університету, 2015, вип.43: 168-77)


‘Peasants and Agriculture' in D. Lieven (ed), The Cambridge History of Russia, vol.2

Imperial Russia, 1689-1917 (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp.369-93


‘Peasant Migration, the Abolition of Serfdom and the Internal Passport System in the

Russian Empire, c.1800-1914', in D. Eltis (ed), Free and Coerced Migration: Global

Perspectives (Stanford University Press, 2002), pp.324-57




David has a lot of experience of teaching history, especially Russian history, at several universities. At Nazarbayev University in 2018-19 he will be teaching the following courses:


An Introduction to Eurasian Environmental History


The Steppes of Eurasia and Great Plains of North America: A Comparative History


Russia in the Reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725)


A graduate seminar on the environmental history of Eurasia