The guest on this episode of Exploring Environmental History is Donald Worster, Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas. He is one of the leading figures in the field of environmental history and has contributed much to its development and methodology. His scholarship and publications has stimulated historians, scientists and others to consider the relationships between humans and nature in history. In this interview Worster considers the nature of environmental history, the question if there are common methodological approaches that brings the field together and the challenges that lay ahead.
This is the first of a series of four podcast episodes investigating the nature, methods and challenges of environmental history.
Environmental history is still a young field and in some respects quite undefined. Many practitioners as well as outsiders struggle to define its boundaries. The challenge that historians are now facing is how to cope with an ever expanding field and how to integrate not only data from other humanities but also the sciences. In this edition of the podcast Paul Warde, Reader in modern history at the University of East Anglia, agues that not defining the boundaries of the field or a common methodology is key to the success of environmental history but also its weakness. It brings excitement and new ideas to history but in the end, if environmental history becomes too diverse; it is not clear where it is going. How to deal with this problem is one of the key issues discussed on this edition of the podcast.
This is part two of a four-part series of podcasts investigating the nature, methods and challenges of environmental history.
Website mentioned in this podcast
History and sustainability, www.historyandsustainability.org
Are there different regional flavours of environmental history? Marc Hall, a historian affiliated to both the Universities of Utah and Zurich, considers this question adding a transatlantic view to this episode in the podcast. In addition he argues that environmental history has moved beyond the question of how we got into the environmental problems that we are facing at present. Now environmental historians consider how and why people have changed ecosystems and how in return the environment changes people in the way they act and think. This opens up a new way of looking at history and the interaction between humanity and nature. But what is the future of the field?
This is part three of a four-part series of podcasts investigating the nature, methods and challenges of environmental history.
This podcast essay puts environmental history in a theoretical and practical framework and considers why this area of study differs from other flavours of history. It will discuss what the narrative of environmental is and how this is researched illustrated by some practical examples of how environmental historians work. Finally the podcast considers the ethical dimension and the potential pitfalls and advantages of the contemporary importance of environmental history as part of current environmental issues.
This is part four of a four-part series of podcasts investigating the nature, methods and challenges of environmental history.
On 15 September 2009 a one-day conference was held at the University of Oxford entitled "Invasions and Transformations". The participants of this meeting examined and discussed the histories of alien species and biological invasions in different parts of the world. This podcast will highlight two papers presented at this meeting. Glenn Sandiford, a postdoc researcher at the University of Illinois, will talk about his paper entitled "Nineteenth century narratives on the introduction of carp in America". The second guest on the podcast is Bernadette Hince of the Australian National University who presented a paper examining the history and impacts of invasive species on sub-Antarctic islands. The podcast ends with a brief summary of the themes and research issues that had emerged at the end of the conference.
The guest on this episode of the podcast is William Beinart, Rhodes Professor of race relations and director the African Studies Centre in Oxford. In the first part of the podcast, Professor Beinart critiques Alfred Crosby’s idea of ecological imperialism. He argues that from the vantage point of Africa, part of the ‘old world’, Crosby’s discussion of asymmetrical plant exchange is problematic. Many species from the America’s were highly successful in Africa. This applies both to cultivated crops and some semi-invasive or invasive plants. Beinart suggests that demographically, economically, and socially, the benefits have outweighed the costs of such invasive plants as prickly pear from Mexico and black wattle from Australia. The ecological costs have been greater but they are difficult to value. The podcast concludes with some brief comments on the relevance of a more flexible and less purist approach to concepts of biodiversity, and how this might be adapted to cater for transferred plants.
Most environmental history research is primarily concerned with the modern period, which is the past 300 years or so. But increasingly medieval historians are interested in the interactions between human culture and the environment of the European Middle Ages. Until recently most of this research was documentary based but increasingly medievalists are turning to scientists to learn more about the environment and landscape than is possible from records. In order to facilitate collaborations the online Environmental History Network for the Middle Ages has been established.
In this episode, Dolly Jørgensen, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Trondheim, Norway explains what the new network is all about. Then she explores the main themes of medieval environmental history and talks about her own work on resource management and sanitation during the Middle Ages.
Website mentioned in this podcast
Environmental History Network for the Middle Ages (ENFORMA)
In this episode Professor emeritus in history Christian Pfister, Fellow of the Oeschger Centre of Climate Research at the University of Bern examines the cultural memory of extreme weather events. In the past people experienced extreme weather in different ways depending on whether they lived in an agricultural society, an urban environment or in what profession they worked. Political and religious structures also influenced the response to weather related disasters. This coloured the narrative and memory of past extreme weather events and floods. Pfister demonstrates that this qualitative data is surprisingly objective and can be successfully used for climate reconstruction, producing surprising results.
Website mentioned in this podcast
Social, Economic and Environmental History Section, University of Bern (In German)
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