Julia Thomas grew up in the coal country of southwest Virginia. Her sharp interest in environmental questions comes from her love of those mountains. As an intellectual historian of Japan, Thomas writes about concepts of nature and the Anthropocene, political thought, historiography, and photography as a political practice. Her publications include Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology (winner of the AHA John K. Fairbank Prize), Japan at Nature's Edge: The Environmental Context of a Global Power, and Rethinking Historical Distance and many essays, including three ("The Cataracts of Time: Wartime Images and the Case of Japan," "Not Yet Far Enough: The Environmental Turn" and "History and Biology in the Anthropocene: Questions of Scale, Questions of Value") in the American Historical Review.
Her most recent books are Altered Earth: Getting the Anthropocene Right (Cambridge University Press, 2022); The Anthropocene: A Multidisciplinary Approach, co-authored with geologists Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams (Polity, 2020); a co-edited collection, Visualizing Fascism: The Twentieth-Century Rise of the Global Right (Duke 2020); and, with Jan Zalasiewicz, Strata and Three Stories (Rachel Carson Center, Munich, 2020). She's currently at work on The Historian's Task in the Anthropocene (under contract with Princeton University Press).