Climate History Network

Call For Papers: Ruling Climate: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Governmentality, 1500-1800

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Warwick University House‘Ruling Climate’ aims to explore the relationship between cultural perceptions of the environment and practical attempts at environmental regulation and change between 1500 and 1800. The conference will be held at the University of Warwick on 16 May 2015. Submit proposals by 10 December 2014.

In the early modern period, the environment became a privileged locus of scientific debate and governmental action. Discussions spread across Europe and its colonies as to how to improve the land, and possibly even the climate of a given place; practical efforts were made to enhance the healthiness, productivity, and overall pleasantness of the environment (both natural and built) in the belief that environmental ‘improvement’, as it was then called, would immediately bring about human improvement—a larger, healthier, happier population that would make the country more powerful. Such debates and practices were driven by a persistent belief in the influence that landscape, weather and climate would exert on human beings, both at a physical and a spiritual level. ‘Climate theories’—first advanced by ancient authors such as Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Ptolemy—remained a popular explanatory paradigm throughout the early modern period, actively dictating trends in environmental management, social governance, and the administration of both private and public health, as well as shaping colonial attitudes to foreign climates and peoples. Yet the period between 1500 and 1800 was also one of substantial intellectual, scientific, and technological change in which new conceptions of nature, climate, and weather were developed. The human footprint on Earth grew heavier, whilst the first moves towards conservation and sustainable resource management were made. Finally, it was in this period that changing climatic patterns were observed for the first time, partly because of a cooling trend that reached its peak around 1650 (the so-called Little Ice Age).

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Written by Dagomar Degroot

September 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Posted in In the News

Call for Papers: Climate in Culture Conference

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UPEIAs climate change becomes arguably the most pressing issue of our time, with evolving implications for societies in every cultural context, we seek to enhance our understanding of the ways in which culture and climate intersect with and animate one another.  Cultural responses to and representations of climate are particularly compelling at a time when catastrophic weather events are becoming more commonly manifest and are inspiring a wide array of cultural and interpretive responses.  Paying particular attention to the cultural implications of climate and to cultural, political, and societal responses to climate change, this conference explores how humanities-based scholarship can be brought to bear upon the evolving reality of climate change. Conference events include keynote talks given by internationally renowned climate and culture scholars, traditional academic papers and presentations, and a variety of interdisciplinary and multimedia performances.  We thus invite submissions from scholars from across the humanities, broadly defined, who are dealing with any aspect of climate and climate change in a cultural context. The conference is hosted by the University of Prince Edward Island, home of the Atlantic Climate Lab and the Institute of Island Studies. Prince Edward Island is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and charm, thus making it an especially apt location for a conference on climate change and its human implications.  Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words to by January 5, 2015. For more on the conference, visit its website or its Facebook page.

Written by Dagomar Degroot

September 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Posted in In the News

A Scientific Expedition to Southeast Greenland

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Permanent twilight and the northern lights during a night watch.

Permanent twilight and the northern lights during a night watch.

By Benoit S. Lecavalier.

The Greenland ice sheet is melting fast, and it contains enough water to raise global sea levels by over seven meters if it were to disappear entirely. However, thousands of years ago the ice sheet was much larger, with a total of 12 metres ice-equivalent sea-level. There are many questions that remain unanswered about how Greenland lost all this ice from past to present. For example: how and where did the Greenland ice sheet lose mass? What climate history resulted in such a drastic change in the ice sheet? This summer, these were the questions that led a multidisciplinary team of scientists to Southeast Greenland. We were embarking on an expedition to better understand its climate history, and so resolve part of a much bigger story. Read more.

Written by Dagomar Degroot

September 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Posted in In the News

“Human Climate” and the Interface of Earth-Sea and Sky: a Meditation on the Verticality of this Ecotone

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HurricaneBy Teresa Devor.

John Gillis, who has a distinct quality of being an interface between humanity and thought, calls us to attend to interfaces, ecotones, meeting places of ecological and cultural differences. He argues that from cells to states, interfaces are porous, and full of possibility. “Margins” are not margin-al, rather, they are zonal, full, places unto themselves. Places to be, to build, and to pay attention to. This invitation to shift perspective – the educators’ magic carpet – literally sky-rocketed my conception of the possibilities at interfaces. In David Christian’s Big History, Maps of Time, he argues that it is the temperature differentials in space that are catalytically creative, gestating galaxies, and generating longue-durée cycles of creation and destruction. Similarly, differences in temperatures and air pressure drive the climate system on Earth. Gillis noted the vertical, as well as horizontal, dimensions of ecotones. He suggested that the verticality of the ecotone joining land and sea surfaces with the atmosphere has taken on a new significance with climate change. It is perhaps the last large ecotonal place which humans must actively collaborate with in our evolution. The energy we have cajoled and coerced the Earth to resurrect in the form of fossil fuels makes the conceptualization of “human climate” that much more poignant and physical. However, aside from this concrete dimension, climate is something that humans imagine and construct in our minds, based on our experiences of place, at the invisible conjuncture of nature and culture. There is no climate without the myriad ways we interact with weather on a daily basis through our technologies of seasonality, from snowshoes to Christmas/festivals of light, which make us at home in our particular climates, and which mediate their potential effects. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dagomar Degroot

August 25, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Posted in In the News

Research Funding Opportunity: International Research Institute on Humanity and Nature (Japan)

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<from Meteohistory listserv>

The International Research Institute on Humanity and Nature (総合地球環境学研究所), a leading science and environmental policy research institute, is engaged in a series of explorations of long-term human-nature interactions associated with climatalogical and environmental change in Japan, the “Societal Adaptation to Climate Change: Integrating Palaeoclimatological Data with Historical and Archaeological Evidences” program (project web sites noted below).  Part of the institute’s research funding is thus available to support a broad array of disciplinary studies related to this theme. This includes consideration of comparative perspectives, theory and method.

Competition for awards for the next Japanese fiscal year (April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016) is now open. Information on research funding, application procedures and deadlines can be found at:


Project descriptions can be found at:


These sites also include contact information at the Institute.

Written by Sam White

August 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Funding

CfP: History and Climate Change – What Have We Learnt

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<from the ICHM listserve>

CfP: History and Climate Change: What have we learnt?

We are currently inviting 20-25 minute contributions from scholars, activists, policy-makers and members of the public to explore two related questions. Firstly, to think about how climate concern is forcing us to rethink our understandings of history, often in quite radical ways. Second, how history and historians should inform our understandings of climate change and actively contribute to changing society to ensure an ecologically wholesome future. We are particularly keen to explore how our historical understanding and rhetoric around climate change have changed in the last five years and how they might need to change in the future.

Questions we hope that papers will address include:

  • How might history become ‘activist history’ in an era of ecological emergency?
  • Whether historical rhetorics of ‘crisis’ and ‘apocalypse’ are productive or counter-productive?
  • History and scale: the roles of local and global narratives in an era ecological emergency
  • What might be learnt about social transformation from radical social movements such as Occupy?
  • Can activist historians learn from the Transition Town movement?
  • Is there an unexamined gender aspect to climate change? Why do climate debates so often seem to be dominated by men?
  • Are religious understandings a necessary and neglected aspect of environmental discourse?
  • How can local history and local historians contribute to local sustainability? (e.g. how can oral histories contribute to local energy descent models?)

The organisers are committed to the Active History tradition of scholarship that listens and is responsive; that will make a tangible difference in people’s lives; that makes an intervention and is transformative to both practitioners and communities. We seek a practice of scholarship that emphasizes collegiality, builds community among active scholars and other members of communities, and recognizes the public responsibilities of scholarship.

Written by Sam White

July 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Towards Policy-Driven Research in Historical Climatology

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International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015, London, 5-10 July 2015

“Towards policy-driven research in historical climatology”

Convened by George Adamson (King’s College London)

The interrelationship climate and society during the past 500-1000 years is a fast-growing area of research within historical climatology. Substantial work has been undertaken to uncover climatic agency in the Little Ice Age, on the role of climate in the collapse of major societies such as the Classic Maya, and on adaptation strategies within pre-industrial communities. Yet historical approaches have thus-far largely failed to engage with the policy agenda. This is partly due to an epistemological divide that exists between practitioners of historical climatology and the development research community that largely dictate adaptation paradigms.

This session addresses studies that have attempted to cross this divide and develop historical climate-society research with an explicit contemporary relevance and/or policy focus. Papers may address (but are not limited to) the following areas:

  • Empirical data on historical major climate events for the preparation of disaster management plans (floods, droughts, cyclones, etc.),
  • The use of historical data to challenge dominant narratives regarding climate change (e.g. the severity or regularity of extreme events) or to facilitate alternative policy responses,
  • New or novel approaches to the study of historical climate-society interactions that move beyond analogy methodologies,
  • Studies that seek to reveal a deeper understanding of adaptive practices through historical analysis and the study of cultural memory.

Interested participants should send an abstract of no more than 200 words to Dr George Adamson (King’s College London) before 1st September 2014. Email:

Further details of the International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015 are available at:

Written by Sam White

July 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm


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