Exploring Environmental History podcast

Podcast Art

Exploring Environmental History is the podcast about human societies and the environment in the past. The periodic programmes feature interviews with people working in the field, reports on conferences and discussions about the use and methods of environmental history. You can listen to these audiocasts on your own computer simply by clicking on the "Listen to podcast " links in the list below. Podcast of previous years can be found in the annual archives. The following years are available: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

If you use a podcast aggregator like iTunes you can subscribe to the podcast feed to automatically download the files for syncing to portable audio devices. For more information on how to subscribe and podcasting clients, view the subscription instructionsnew window.

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Current podcast

Podcast 65: Environmental history of a hydrological landscape: the soughs of Derbyshire

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Sough tail
Sough tail (Photo: Georgina Enfield)

Under the Peak District of Derbyshire is a subterranean network of drainage tunnels, the so-called soughs that were used to drain the lead mines of the region

Up till the 16th century most lead mining In the Peak District done on the surface and miners followed horizontal seams. By then the surface seams were exhausted and miners had to sink shafts to reach rich underground seams. By the 17th century most mines were down to the water table. To prevent the mines from filling up with water drains or ‘soughs’ were cut through the hills to a neighboring valley. The construction of soughs changed the hydrological landscape of the Peak District, both below ground and above. In some cases the soughs not only drained mineshafts but also the small rivers above, which as a result were dry most of the year. The construction of soughs also reduced the flow of watercourses powering the mills of the early Industrial Revolution. This led to legal conflicts between sough builders and others who relied on the availability of water. Petitions were submitted to the courts and many of these court cases rumbled on for decades.

During the 20th century the soughs were largely forgotten but recently the soughs have been rediscovered for their industrial heritage on the one hand, and their detrimental effect on the hydrology of the landscape, pitting heritage values versus ecological restoration, creating a new battle ground of interests.

This edition of the podcast examines the environmental history of the Derbyshire Soughs with Carry van Lieshout, a historical geographer at the University of Nottingham. She works on a research project that investigates the environmental and cultural history of the Derbyshire soughs in order to inform understandings of this largely forgotten cultural landscape and to develop management and conservation strategies for underground heritage.

Website mentioned
The Water and the Power Project website

Further reading
From Lead to Tail: an Environmental History of the Derbyshire Soughs. Poster presented by Carry van Lieshout at the World Congress of Environmental History in Guimarães, Portugal, July 2014.

Peter Coates, Who killed the Lathkill? (or, when is a river is no longer a river?), The Power and the Water blog, 5 Nov. 2014.

T. D. Ford and Rieuwerts, J., Lead miners' soughs in Derbyshire, Geology Today, 23 (2007): 57–62. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2451.2007.00604.x

Music credits
Like Music (cdk Mix, 2013 & 2014)" by cdk, available from ccMixter

Watch the video visualisation of the introduction of the podcast:

The production of this podcast was supported by the Water and the Power project and the AHRC.
AHRC logo Water & Power logo



Recent podcasts

Podcast 64: Tin: a historical perspective on a networked resource

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The history of human civilization is closely linked to the exploitation of mineral resources. It is no coincidence that the periodization of prehistory and antiquity has been chosen according to the main metals in use: stone, bronze and iron. It shows the centrality of the exploitation and production of these mineral resources in human history. Since the Industrial Revolution metals have become global commodities, including tin. The importance of tin increased with the invention of canned food in the 19th century, and during the 20th century with the rise of the electronics industry. Both of these factors made tin a strategic resource not seen since the days that it was used in the production of bronze for weaponry.

Tin mines Cornwall
The heart of the Cornish tin-mining district, looking from Dolcoath Mine
(on an unusually smoke-free day), ca. 1890. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A new edited book entitled Tin and Global Capitalism, 1850-2000: A History of the “Devil’s Metal”, explores the evolution of the global tin industry, from mining through the trade networks and the politics surrounding the strategic importance of tin. Interrogating the rhetoric of “strategic” raw materials is important in order to understand the social, political, and environmental effects of displacement of communities, environmental degradation and pollution, and ‘resource conflicts'.

This edition of the podcast explores these themes with the editors of Tin and Global Capitalism: Andrew Perchard, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University; Mats Ingulstad, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU); and Espen Storli, Associate Professor in History at the NTNU.

Websites mentioned
History and Strategic Raw Materials Initiative
Details of the book on the publisher's website

Music credits
"Where You Are Now" by Zapac, available from ccMixter
"Nightride" by remaxim, available from ccMixter
"Unfriendly Me" by Martijn de Boer (NiGiD), available from ccMixter





Podcast 63: Climate variability and population dynamics in prehistoric Australia

Monday, 27 October 2014

Aboriginal men
Aboriginal men of Bathurst Island, Northern Territory.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The first people to settle in Australia, ancestors of present day Aboriginals, arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago. They took advantage of the lower sea levels that were the norm throughout the last 100,000 years and were the result of a cooling global climate - part of the last ice age cycle. The first people who entered Australia encountered a cooler and drier continent than at present. From about 35,000 years ago global temperatures and water availability declined even further culminating in the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), about 21,000 years ago. At this time, the Australian continent entered its driest and coolest period since modern humans colonized it. By 12,000 years ago the climate warmed rapidly, sea levels rose and climate began to ameliorate.

How did populations in Australia respond to these climate fluctuations? This episode of the podcast explores this question with Alan Williams, an archaeologist and graduate student in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra, and an Aboriginal Heritage Team Leader at AHMS Pty Ltd. Alan’s research explores the responses and adaptations by Aboriginal people to climate change through time.

Further reading

Williams, A.N. (2012) The use of summed radiocarbon probability distributions in archaeology: A review of methods. Journal of Archaeological Science, 39: 578-589.

Williams, A.N. (2013) A new population curve for prehistoric Australia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 280: 20130486.

Williams, A.N., Ulm, S., Smith, M.A., Reid, J. (2014) AustArch: A Database of 14C and Non-14C Ages from Archaeological Sites in Australia - Composition, Compilation and Review (Data Paper). Internet Archaeology 36, doi:10.11141/ia.36.6

Williams, A.N., Atkinson, F., Lau, M., Toms, P. (in press) A Glacial cryptic refuge in southeast Australia: Human occupation and mobility from 36,000 years ago in the Sydney Basin, New South Wales. Journal of Quaternary Science.

Williams, A.N., Ulm, S., Turney, C.S.M., Rodhe, D., White, G., Cook, A.R. (submitted) The Establishment of Complex Society in Prehistoric Australia: Demographic and Mobility Changes in the Late Holocene.

Williams, Alan N., Ulm, Sean, Cook, Andrew R., Langley, Michelle C., and Collard, Mark, “Human refugia in Australia during the Last Glacial Maximum and Terminal Pleistocene: a geospatial analysis of the 25-12 ka Australian archaeological record”, Journal of Archaeological Science, 2013, 40 (12). pp. 4612-4625. See also: "How aboriginal Australians coped with the last ice age.", ScienceDaily, 23 September 2013.

Williams, A.N., Ulm, S., Goodwin, I., Smith, M.A., “Hunter-Gatherer Response to Late Holocene Climatic Variability in Northern and Central Australia”, Journal of Quaternary Science, 2010, 25(6): 831-838.

Most of these and other papers can be downloaded from Alan Williams’ website Australian Archaeological Datasets.

Music credit
"Homesick" by keytronic, available from ccMixter

Watch the video visualisation of the introduction of the podcast: