Environmental History Videos

The Environmental History Resources videos are a teaching resource of occasional videos introducing themes in environmental history. The videos are posted on the YouTube channel of the Environmental History Resources site and are embedded on this page for your convenience.

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Available Videocasts

What is Environmental History?

First published: Sunday, 6 May 2007

A short video introducing the subject area of environmental history including some of the major themes such as climate history, the role of disease in history and pollution history. Approximate length: 10 minutes.

The Parallel Roads of Glen Roy

First published: Sunday, 15 July 2007

This video explores how the landscape of Glen Roy in the Scottish Highlands has been shaped by a past climate. Approximate lenght: 4.45 minutes. Read the essay about the parallel roads.

Music credit opening sequence: Ida by Francesco Lettera.

Land use and management during the Mesolithic period

First published: Friday, 30 January 2009

A short video introducing how mesolithic peoples managed the landscape and manipulated ecosystems in the British Isles. This was probably the first discernible impact of humans on the environment of Britain. The pattern was very likely repeated throughout Europe. Approximate length: 3.6 minutes.

Air pollution in a historical perspective

First published: Sunday, 8 February 2009

A short video about the history of air pollution in Britain from the 17th century to the late 20th century. It covers John Evelyn's writings about air quality in London, the Industrial Revolution and the Great London Smog of 1952 and its aftermath. It concludes by suggesting that the traditional smogs have been replaced with photochemical smogs caused by cars. Approximate length: 5.5 minutes

The Scottish forestry experience and the development of forestry in India

First published: Thursday, 4 April 2013

Video featuring a seminar talk given by Jan Oosthoek in the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland, Brisbane on 22 March 2013.

Since at least the 18th century Scotland has been the centre of forestry knowledge in Britain. Many foresters and botanists trained on Scottish estates went into the colonial service in during the 19th century and what they brought with them was a unique set of forestry skills. This paper examines the influence of Scottish foresters on the development of empire forestry in British India. Scottish-trained foresters aided the adaptation of continental forestry models, mainly German and French, to the Indian conditions, drawing on their experience gained in Scotland. Returning from their service in India they went on to advocate the creation of a forestry service in Scotland, which resonated with landowners who believed that forestry would make the Highlands more productive.
Approximate length: 32 minutes.

You can also listen to the podcast version of this talk (without the slides).

The power of the wild

First published: Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A short video considering the power of the wild and whether humans are a part of wild nature. This video features the introduction of episode 56 of the Exploring Environmental History podcast.

Listen to the full podcast version fearuring Paul Warde on nature and wilderness as categories of power.

Events in the collective environmental memory of humanity

First published: Thursday, 27 February 2014

What are the most important events in the collective environmental memory of humanity? This is the question addressed in this video highlighting 22 events that professional environmental historians regard as turning points in the relationship between humans and the environment. Topics include deforestation, mining and oil extraction, nuclear disaster, bugs, Earth Day, a dust veil event and the invention of agriculture. The events discussed in the video move beyond the confines of human history. The earliest event is the asteroid impact that ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. At the other end of the timeline the video moves into the future and speculates about a future mega-earthquake in the Tokyo Bay area. In spatial terms, events were scattered over all five continents as well as the entire globe

This video provides an introduction to some of the most prominent events in the interaction between humans and the planetary environment that have shaped history.

The video is based on an article compiled and introduced by Frank Uek├Âtter: "What Should We Remember? A Global Poll Among Environmental Historians", Global Environment, 11 (2013), pp. 184-214, and is available from the publisher's website.

Detailed image credits
Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, addressing the environment conference at Stockholm, 05 June 1972. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata. View Photo or View source.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, President of Haiti (at podium), addresses the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), or Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, 13 June 1992. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras. View Photo or View source.

Children perform at the "South African Welcoming Ceremony" for the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Ubuntu Village, Johannesburg. 24 August 2002. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe. View photo or View Source.

Images by Bob Duncan of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill, 1969. View soure images on Flickr.

Joseph Lycett's c.1817 watercolour, Aborigines Using Fire to Hunt Kangaroos. Source: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an2962715-s20.

Credits video clips
The Plow that Broke the Plains, written and directed by Pare Lorentz, 1936. Source: Prelinger collection on the Internet Archive.

Southern White Rhinoceros by Nesnad. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Oil Well Pumping Unit, YouTube channel 99darkshadows.

For info on the music used see the closing credits of the video.

Malthus, population growth and the resource base

First published: Wednesday 2 April 2014

This short video explores the ideas of Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) and his predictions for the growth of the human population. The video investigates the background of Malthus' ideas, the mathematical basis of it and how it influenced the debate about population growth in the latter half of 20th century. The video concludes with a brief discussion if Malthus' predictions have come true or not in the light of the high food prices in the first decade of the 21st century.

The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress

First published: Thursday 14 August 2014

Preview of Exploring Environmental History podcast episode with Cameron Muir, author of 'The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress'. The video introduces the struggle of Australian farmers with the unpredictable climate and environment of inland Australia. Listen to the podcast episode.

Forestry and Landscape Change in 20th Century Scotland

First published: Monday 8 September 2014

An interview with environmental historian Jan Oosthoek about the history of modern forestry in Scotland. He talks about the development of modern forestry in Scotland from the aristocratic estates that planted imported "exotic" trees in the 19th century trough the wood shortages of the First World War and the creation of the Forestry Commission. The video discusses the significant role of the British Forestry Commission in influencing the appearance, nature and use of the Scottish landscape in the 20th century. It highlights that Scotland had a low forest cover at the start of the 20th century and how the use of a variety of techniques and strategies drawn from modern forestry practices, tripled the forest cover in less than hundred years. The creation of new forests to serve strategic and economic interests, however, altered the ecology of the Scottish uplands and eventually was criticised by environmentalists and others as treating tree plantations as a crop.

The interview was recorded in July 2008 at the University of Edinburgh as part of a distance learning masters programme in Landscape, Environment and History,which ran between 2009 and 2013.

Climate variability and population dynamics in prehistoric Australia

First published: Monday 27 October 2014

Preview of Exploring Environmental History podcast episode featuring archaeologist Alan Williams exploring the responses and adaptations by Aboriginal people to climate change over the past 50,000 years in Australia.

Environmental history of a hydrological landscape: the soughs of Derbyshire

First published: Wednesday 11 February 2015

Preview of Exploring Environmental History podcast episode featuring historical geographer Carry van Lieshout exploring the environmental and cultural history of the Derbyshire soughs (lead mine drainage tunnels).

The UK National Grid: history of an energy landscape and its impacts

First published: Friday 6 March 2015

Preview of Exploring Environmental History podcast episode featuring Cambridge based environmental historian Kayt Button exploring the development of the energy landscape of the UK National Grid. The video raises the questions of how the Grid impacted on the landscape and environment and what the social and economic consequences of the expansion of the grid were.