Philip Dreyfus

photo of Philip Dreyfus
Associate Professor
FERP (2017)
(415) 338-7537
Building: Science
Room Number: 225
Office Hours: 
Thursday: 3:00 pm-4:00 pm


I did not follow a direct academic path from college to the doctorate, but spent years working alternately as a baker, an electrician and a community advocate for the elderly poor. As the first American-born in a family of post-World War II French immigrants, I have always been a gatherer of stories. In graduate school and for years thereafter, my scholarly work focused primarily on labor militancy, political radicalism, and the intersection of ethnic, national and class identities. After leaving New York City for the San Francisco Bay Area, I offered courses in U.S. labor history and African-American history at San Francisco State University and the California State University at Hayward (now Cal State East Bay), respectively. By the end of the 1990s, my intellectual interests had migrated to the young field of environmental history. I began designing and offering courses in American environmental history and the history of California cities at San Francisco State University, and received numerous meritorious teaching awards. I was twice a lead speaker at the Fulbright Commission American Studies Summer Institute for German University Teachers, where I led a seminar titled “The Wilderness and the Garden: Conflicting Views of Nature and the Emergence of Modern American Environmental Values.” For a number of years I also played an on-going role in the teacher education programs of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Office of Teaching and Learning. My 2009 book Our Better Nature: Environment and the Making of San Francisco resulted from teaching environmental history at SF State and is a good representation of my current interest in urban environmental history, and in views of and attitudes toward nature in modern urban civilization. 


  • Ph.D. 1993, Graduate School of the City University of New York
  • M.Phil. 1988, Graduate School of the City University of New York
  • M.A. 1982, Graduate School of the City University of New York
  • B.A. 1977, Magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, History and Political Science, City College of New York

Courses Recently Taught


  • Americans and Nature
  • California Cities: San Francisco and Los Angeles
  • Labor in the American West
  • American Environmental History
  • American West, 1845-1945
  • California History


  • Environmental History of the United States
  • American West

Research Interests

  • Environmental History, especially in an urban context
  • American West, especially 20th century
  • California
  • Labor History

Selected Publications



  • California Labor, Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working Class History, edited by Eric Arnesen, Routledge Press, November 2006
  • Industrial Unionism, Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working Class History, edited by Eric Arnesen, Routledge Press, November 2006
  • Nature, Militancy and the Western Worker: Socialist Shingles, Syndicalist Spruce, Labor: Studies in Working Class History in the Americas, 1:3, September 2004
  • The I.W.W. and the Limits of Inter-Ethnic Organizing: Reds, Whites and Greeks in Grays Harbor, Washington, 1912, Labor History, 38:4, Fall 1997

Professional Service

  • Advisory Board Member, H-California, 2012 to present
  • Journal referee, Pacific Historical Review, 2010 to present
  • Journal referee, Western Historical Quarterly, 2004 to present

Community Service

  • Board Member, Fund for Labor Culture and History, 2011 to present