Tag: Africa

Podcast 55: The nature of South African environmental history

Riebeeck at Cape of Good Hope

An imaginary scene depicting of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay showing the land, its people and the environment that the Europeans so totally misread. The European settlers were not able to mange the South African environment within its limits because they misinterpreted the nature of African nature and it created a legacy that still endures. (Painting by Charles Bell, 1813-1882). Source: Wikipedia.

On 14 and 15 November 2013, the 44th symposium of the Australian Academy of the Humanities was held at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. This year the meeting focused on the burgeoning field of the environmental humanities and the symposium was entitled The question of nature. The first two sessions of the symposium were devoted to an important component of the environmental humanities: environmental history.

The symposium opened with a keynote address by leading environmental historian Jane Carruthers, Emeritus Professor at the University of South Africa. Her talk, entitled “The question of nature, or the nature of the question?”, explored the nature and purpose of environmental history in South Africa. In this episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast professor Carruthers argues that the European settlers were not able to manage South Africa’s environment within its limits because they misinterpreted the nature of African nature and it created a legacy that still endures. She explores why and how environmental history has an urgent role to play in addressing this legacy and should contribute to discussions about issues such as environmental and social resilience and sustainability as well as social justice. Jane Carruthers argues that environmental historians are well equipped to raise questions related to environmental and social issues particular to emerging countries such as South Africa.


Links and sites mentioned in the podcast
Jane Carruthers, “Environmental History For An Emerging World”, Conservation and Society (2013), Download from the journal’s website.

Website Jane Carruthers

Programme 44th Symposium of the Australian Academy for the Humanities


Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
Lhasa” by Nic Bommarito, available from The Free Music Archive

Podcast 30: Green Colonialism in Zimbabwe

Environmental history of the British Empire seems to revolve around the theme of imperial forestry and Zimbabwe is no exception. In this edition of the podcast Vimbai Kwashirai, Lecturer in African History at Durham University, examines the debates and processes of woodland exploitation in Zimbabwe during the colonial period (1890-1980). He is doing this along the lines of Richard Grove’s thesis of Green Imperialism, but he goes beyond that by placing conservation and forest history into the broader social, political and economic history of Zimbabwe and the wider British Empire.

More information on Book Green Colonialism in Zimbabwe 
Cambria Press website

Music credit
Soon, this is it!” by DrGoldklang. Available from ccMixter

Podcast 15: The environmental shadow of apartheid and rinderpest

Second of two episodes devoted to environmental history of South Africa. In this episode South African historian Phia Steyn explores the environmental consequences of the industrial development and militarization of South Africa during the Apartheid era and how it influenced environmental policies in the post-apartheid period. In the second half of the podcast Phia talks about her present research which looks at the origins of the African rinderpest outbreak and its consequences for the young Orange Free State in the 1890s.

Podcast 14: Botanists, colonists and local knowledge of nature in South Africa

First of two episodes devoted to environmental history of South Africa. South Africa is one of the most culturally and ecologically diverse countries in the world. Different cultures interpret and understand nature in different ways and that was nowhere more visible than in colonial South Africa. In this episode Elizabeth Green-Musselman, a historian of science based at the Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, explores how a hybridized knowledge of nature developed in the cape colony blending local and European knowledge. The issues discussed include the impact of European cultivation, conflicts over natural resources and the role of naturalists in conservation and what they learned from local guides during botanical expeditions during the 18th and 19th centuries. The podcast concludes with a brief consideration of the benefits of the interactions and collaboration between environmental historians and historians of science.

Websites mentioned in this podcast:



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