The questions of environmental history date back to antiquity, including  Hippocrates , the father of medicine, who asserted that different cultures and human temperaments could be related to the surroundings in which peoples lived in Airs, Waters, Places. In a group of French historians founded the journal Annales , in many ways a forerunner of modern environmental history since it took as its subject matter the reciprocal global influences of the environment and human society.
The idea of the impact of the physical environment on civilizations was espoused by this Annales School to describe the long term developments that shape human history  by focusing away from political and intellectual history, toward agriculture , demography , and geography. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie , a pupil of the Annales School, was the first to really embrace, in the s, environmental history in a more contemporary form. The most influential empirical and theoretical work in the subject has been done in the United States where teaching programs first emerged and a generation of trained environmental historians is now active.
Moral and political inspiration to environmental historians has come from American writers and activists such as Henry Thoreau , John Muir , Aldo Leopold , and Rachel Carson. Environmental history "frequently promoted a moral and political agenda although it steadily became a more scholarly enterprise".
Their work was expanded by a second generation of more specialized environmental historians such as Alfred Crosby , Samuel P. Lambert , T. Smout , and Peter Coates in Europe. Although environmental history was growing rapidly after , it only reached historians of the British Empire in the s. He argues that imperial forestry movement in India around included government reservations, new methods of fire protection, and attention to revenue-producing forest management.
The result eased the fight between romantic preservationists and laissez-faire businessmen, thus giving the compromise from which modern environmentalism emerged. In recent years numerous scholars cited by James Beattie have examined the environmental impact of the Empire.
The efficient use of rivers through dams and irrigation projects was an expensive but important method of raising agricultural productivity. Searching for more efficient ways of using natural resources, the British moved flora, fauna and commodities around the world, sometimes resulting in ecological disruption and radical environmental change. Imperialism also stimulated more modern attitudes toward nature and subsidized botany and agricultural research.
In the United States the American Society for Environmental History was founded in while the first institute devoted specifically to environmental history in Europe was established in , based at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In , the Dutch foundation for the history of environment and hygiene Net Werk was founded and publishes four newsletters per year. In the UK the White Horse Press in Cambridge has, since , published the journal Environment and History which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together in constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems and a similar publication Tijdschrift voor Ecologische Geschiedenis Journal for Environmental History is a combined Flemish-Dutch initiative mainly dealing with topics in the Netherlands and Belgium although it also has an interest in European environmental history.
Each issue contains abstracts in English, French and German. In the Journal was converted into a yearbook for environmental history. In Canada the Network in Canadian History and Environment facilitates the growth of environmental history through numerous workshops and a significant digital infrastructure including their website and podcast.
Environmental history - Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Communication between European nations is restricted by language difficulties. In April a meeting was held in Germany to overcome these problems and to co-ordinate environmental history in Europe. This meeting resulted in the creation of the European Society for Environmental History in Andrews, Scotland. Around scholars attended the meeting and papers were presented on topics covering the whole spectrum of environmental history. The conference showed that environmental history is a viable and lively field in Europe and since then ESEH has expanded to over members and continues to grow and attracted international conferences in and Environmental history prides itself in bridging the gap between the arts and natural sciences although to date the scales weigh on the side of science.
A definitive list of related subjects would be lengthy indeed and singling out those for special mention a difficult task. However, those frequently quoted include, historical geography , the history and philosophy of science , history of technology and climate science.
On the biological side there is, above all, ecology and historical ecology , but also forestry and especially forest history , archaeology and anthropology. When the subject engages in environmental advocacy it has much in common with environmentalism. With increasing globalization and the impact of global trade on resource distribution, concern over never-ending economic growth and the many human inequities environmental history is now gaining allies in the fields of ecological and environmental economics. Engagement with sociological thinkers and the humanities is limited but cannot be ignored through the beliefs and ideas that guide human action.
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This has been seen as the reason for a perceived lack of support from traditional historians. The subject has a number of areas of lively debate. These include discussion concerning: what subject matter is most appropriate; whether environmental advocacy can detract from scholarly objectivity; standards of professionalism in a subject where much outstanding work has been done by non-historians; the relative contribution of nature and humans in determining the passage of history; the degree of connection with, and acceptance by, other disciplines - but especially mainstream history.
For Paul Warde the sheer scale, scope and diffuseness of the environmental history endeavour calls for an analytical toolkit "a range of common issues and questions to push forward collectively" and a "core problem". He sees a lack of "human agency" in its texts and suggest it be written more to act: as a source of information for environmental scientists; incorporation of the notion of risk; a closer analysis of what it is we mean by "environment"; confronting the way environmental history is at odds with the humanities because it emphasises the division between "materialist, and cultural or constructivist explanations for human behaviour".
Many of the themes of environmental history inevitably examine the circumstances that produced the environmental problems of the present day, a litany of themes that challenge global sustainability including: population , consumerism and materialism , climate change , waste disposal , deforestation and loss of wilderness, industrial agriculture , species extinction , depletion of natural resources, invasive organisms and urban development. Richard Grove has pointed out that " States will act to prevent environmental degradation only when their economic interests are threatened ".
It is not clear whether environmental history should promote a moral or political agenda. The strong emotions raised by environmentalism, conservation and sustainability can interfere with historical objectivity: polemical tracts and strong advocacy can compromise objectivity and professionalism. Engagement with the political process certainly has its academic perils  although accuracy and commitment to the historical method is not necessarily threatened by environmental involvement: environmental historians have a reasonable expectation that their work will inform policy-makers.
A recent historiographical shift has placed an increased emphasis on inequality as an element of environmental history. Imbalances of power in resources, industry, and politics have resulted in the burden of industrial pollution being shifted to less powerful populations in both the geographic and social spheres. Communities with less economic and sociopolitical power often lack the resources to get involved in environmental advocacy.
Environmental history increasingly highlights the ways in which the middle-class environmental movement has fallen short and left behind entire communities. Interdisciplinary research now understands historic inequality as a lens through which to predict future social developments in the environmental sphere, particularly with regard to climate change. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs cautions that a warming planet will exacerbate environmental and other inequalities, particularly with regard to: " a increase in the exposure of the disadvantaged groups to the adverse effects of climate change; b increase in their susceptibility to damage caused by climate change; and c decrease in their ability to cope and recover from the damage suffered.
Narratives of environmental history tend to be declensionist, that is, accounts of progressive decline under human activity.
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Under the accusation of "presentism" it is sometimes claimed that, with its genesis in the late 20th century environmentalism and conservation issues, environmental history is simply a reaction to contemporary problems, an "attempt to read late twentieth century developments and concerns back into past historical periods in which they were not operative, and certainly not conscious to human participants during those times". In environmental debate blame can always be apportioned, but it is more constructive for the future to understand the values and imperatives of the period under discussion so that causes are determined and the context explained.
For some environmental historians "the general conditions of the environment, the scale and arrangement of land and sea, the availability of resources, and the presence or absence of animals available for domestication, and associated organisms and disease vectors, that makes the development of human cultures possible and even predispose the direction of their development"  and that "history is inevitably guided by forces that are not of human origin or subject to human choice".
The claim that the path of history has been forged by environmental rather than cultural forces is referred to as environmental determinism while, at the other extreme, is what may be called cultural determinism. An example of cultural determinism would be the view that human influence is so pervasive that the idea of pristine nature has little validity - that there is no way of relating to nature without culture.
Useful guidance on the process of doing environmental history has been given by Donald Worster,  Carolyn Merchant,  William Cronon  and Ian Simmons. The tools are those of both history and science with a requirement for fluency in the language of natural science and especially ecology. In a theme issue of Environment and History 10 4 provided an overview of environmental history as practiced in Africa, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, China and Europe as well as those with global scope. Donald Hughes has also provided a global conspectus of major contributions to the environmental history literature.
Environmental history, like all historical studies, shares the hope that through an examination of past events it may be possible to forge a more considered future.
In particular a greater depth of historical knowledge can inform environmental controversies and guide policy decisions. The subject continues to provide new perspectives, offering cooperation between scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds and providing an improved historical context to resource and environmental problems. Over the next fifty years, this transformative process stands a good chance of turning our physical world, and our society, upside-down. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Main article: Roderick Nash. Main article: Sustainability. Main article: Advocacy. Main article: Presentism literary and historical analysis. Further information: Environmental determinism and Cultural determinism. Main article: Historical method. History portal Environment portal. Barton, Gregory A. The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing the world and what we eat.
Ebury Press, London. Encyclopaedia of World Environmental History Vol 1—3. London: Routledge. McNeill, John R. New York: W. Ponting, Clive rev. London: Penguin. Environmental History: A Concise Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell. Richards, J. Blackwell Simmons, I. Williams, M. University of Chicago Press. Biggs, David. Sociological Inquiry, Nov , Vol. Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa Oxford University Press; pages; scholarly essays on plague and environment in late Ottoman Egypt, the rise and fall of environmentalism in Lebanon, the politics of water in the making of Saudi Arabia, etc.
Peloso, Nancy Lee. Thapar, Valmik. Bonhomme, Brian. The Rhine: An Eco-Biography, Clapp, Brian William. An environmental history of Britain since the industrial revolution Routledge, Hoffmann, Richard. Managing Scotland's environment Weiner, Douglas R. Landscape and History since Reaktion Books. August Beattie, James. Environmental History. Bess, Michael b. Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature.
New York: W W Norton. CS1 maint: extra text: authors list link Dovers, Stephen ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CS1 maint: extra text: authors list link Febvre, Lucien A Geographical Introduction to History. New York: Alfred A Knopf.
Grove, Richard H Scientific American. Grove, Richard Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hay, Peter. Description What we now know of as environmentalism began with the establishment of the first empire forest in in British India, and during the second half of the nineteenth century, over ten per cent of the land surface of the earth became protected as a public trust.
Sprawling forest reservations, many of them larger than modern nations, became revenue-producing forests that protected the whole 'household of nature', and Rudyard Kipling and Theodore Roosevelt were among those who celebrated a new class of government foresters as public heroes.
Publisher Series: Cambridge Studies in Historical Geography
Imperial foresters warned of impending catastrophe, desertification and global climate change if the reverse process of deforestation continued. The empire forestry movement spread through India, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and then the United States to other parts of the globe, and Gregory Barton's study looks at the origins of environmentalism in a global perspective. Other books in this series. Geography and History Alan R.
Add to basket. Geographies of England Alan R. The Sugar Cane Industry J. Power and Pauperism Felix Driver. Table of contents List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction; 2. The great interference; 3. Empire forestry and British India; 4. Environmental innovation in British India; 5. Empire forestry and the colonies; 6. Empire forestry and American environmentalism; 7. From empire forestry to Commonwealth forestry; Bibliography; Index. Review quote 'The central thesis of this challenging book is that imperialism and environmentalism have a shared past that many scholars, especially those on the political left, wish to deny I have much sympathy with this brave Rating details.