Podcast archive 2012

Podcast 48: Remaking wetlands: a tale of rice, ducks and floods in the Murrumbidgee River region

Murrumbidgee Map

Map of the The Murray-Darling river system with the Murrumbidgee river in red. Source: Wikipedia

Australia is a dry continent and as a result Australian ecologies can generally be characterised as “boom and bust” and are significantly driven by intermittent and unpredictable wet “booms” and dry “busts”. The populations and movements of many animals are considerably influenced by these wet and dry periods. Birds tend to be “nomadic” and go where the water is. Native Australian ducks are no exception.

Before the arrival of Europeans and their agriculture, ducks only had to compete with other native birds and animals, as well as Aboriginal hunters.

Anas gracilis

Grey Teal (Anas gracilis).
Source: Wikimedia

However, the introduction of water intensive agricultural activity by Europeans changed all this and in particular rice cultivation has been implicated in altering the Murrumbidgee river system in Australia, and as a result the habitat for ducks. The guest on this episode of the podcast is Emily O’Gorman, an Associate Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research of the University of Wollongong. She is an expert on Australian flooding and river history and examines on this podcast the ways in which ducks as well as people negotiated the changing water landscapes of the Murrumbidgee River caused by the creation of rice paddies.

Information on Emily O’Gorman’s book 
Flood Country: An Environmental History of the Murray-Darling Basin – Info from the Publisher.

Music credits

Forecast” by cdk
Available from ccMixter

Where You Are Now” by Zapac
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 47: Canine City: Dogs and Humans in Urban History

Richard Gallo and dog

Richard Gallo and his dog at Petit Gennevilliers
near Paris. By impressionist painter Gustave
Caillebotte. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the modern urbanized world it is often forgotten that throughout history humans have been very dependent on animals for their survival and livelihoods. Until recently most humans in the developed world share their cities with animals, in particular those that provided transport or energy for all kinds of labour. Most obvious of these are horses and donkeys. But none of these animals has such as long symbiotic history with humans as dogs. Today, most dogs in the developed world are kept as pets. However, urban dogs have also been economically as well as culturally important. The history of urban dogs is a story that has hardly been told. This was also noticed by Chris Pearson, Lecturer in Twentieth Century History at the University of Liverpool in the UK, and he is working on a research project entitled “Canine City: Dogs, Humans, and the Making of Modern Paris”. In this episode of the podcast Dr. Pearson talks about this project and the role of dogs in modern urban history.

Blog mentioned
Sniffing the past – Blog on canine history by Chris Pearson

Music credits

Where You Are Now” by Zapac
Available from ccMixter

Copy me in B minor” by My Free Mickey
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 46: Explorations in historical climatology

Thames frost fair

Frost Fair on the River Thames near
the Temple Stairs in 1683-84.
Engraving after a drawing by Jan Wijck.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

For many historical climatologists cold, wet and stormy weather worsened life for most European people and harmed the economy during the early modern period. Warmth on the other hand is generally regarded as a beneficial thing but too much of it is also harmful. This all seems to make sense if one ignores the Dutch economic miracle which transformed a small piece of land on the edge of Europe into the first modern economy just as the Little Ice Age entered its coldest phase. How is this possible in the face of climatic stress?

This is one of that questions that Dagomar Degroot, a PhD Candidate in environmental history at York University in Toronto, Canada, addresses on this episode of the podcast. His research explores the issue of how the changing climate of the Little Ice Age influenced the cultural, military and economic histories of the Dutch Republic during the early modern period. In addition, Dagomar will discuss the pitfalls of determinism and indeterminism in historical climatology, the sources available to historian’s researching climate and the relevance of historical climate research for present day debates about global warming and climate change. Finally, he will talk about the importance of blogging for the historical profession as a tool to communicate research outcomes to a wider audience.

Relevant websites
HistoricalClimatology.com
Climate History Network
CLIWOC

Further reading
Dagomar Degroot, “Does tree ring data reflect global cooling?“, HistoricalClimatology.com, 9 July 2012.
David D. Zhang et.al., “The causality analysis of climate change and large-scale human crisis“, PNAS, October 18, 2011 vol. 108 no. 42, pp. 17296-17301.

Related podcasts

Music credits

Where You Are Now” by Zapac
Available from ccMixter

Flowing Water” by Pitx
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 45: Medicinal plants in New Zealand: bridging the gap between medical and environmental history

New Zealand flax

New Zealand flax or Harakeke
(Phormium tenax) flowers and
native tui on stalk. Used medicinally
by Maori to kill intestinal worms,
and as a purgative.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Medical historians often presume that 19th century European settlers of New Zealand and other parts of the world relied on the emerging inorganic medicines and colonial doctors to maintain their health. However, there is also another story that seems to be overlooked: that of the use of medicine plants by settlers. For these medicinal purposes settlers introduced many new plants from overseas. The guest on this edition of the podcast is Joanna Bishop, a PhD student at the university of Wiakato in Hamilton, New Zealand. She is working on a study uncovering the story of the introduction and use of medicinal plants in New Zealand and their botanical, medical as well as environmental histories.

Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac
Available from ccMixter