Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Week 5: Environment, the Anthropocene & planetary history

This seminar considers how environmental history and the concept of the Anthropocene presents opportunities and challenges to global history. In particular, it asks how global historians might work with recent key concepts such as ‘the planetary’ and ‘the more-than-human’; and whether the Anthropocene demands a fundamental shift in historical methods.



  • How should global historians respond to the concept of planetary history?
  • How does the concept of the Anthropocene challenge existing ways of researching, writing, and communicating history?
  • Do contemporary environmental crises require all historians to be inter- or multi-disciplinary scholars?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges for global historians that come with the collapse of a stable binary between nature and culture?
  • What can historians contribute to discussions of the Anthropocene and responses to environmental crises?

Core preparation

  • Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us(London and New York: Verso, 2016), ch. 2: "Thinking with Gaia: Towards Environmental Humanities", pp. 24–39.
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘The Planet: An Emergent Humanist Category’, Critical Inquiry, 46, 1 (2019), pp. 1–31
  • Bathsheba Demuth, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2019), ‘Prologue: The Migration North’, pp. 1–11; and ch. 1, ‘Whale Country’, pp. 15–42
  • Anna L. Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman Saxena, and Feifei Zhou (eds.), Feral Atlas: The More-Than-Human Anthropocene (Stanford University Press, 2020–), accessed at Start with Introduction to Feral Atlas []; then explore freely for at least another half hour.

Further reading

  • Alison Bashford, Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014)
  • William Beinart and Lotte Hughes, Environment and Empire(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Etienne S. Benson, Surroundings: A History of Environments and Environmentalisms, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020)
  • Debjani Bhattacharyya, Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)
  • Deborah R. Coen and Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, ‘Between history and Earth System science’, Isis (2022) 113, 2, pp. 407–16
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Climate of History in a Planetary Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021)
  • Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)
  • Alfred W. Crosby, ‘The Past and Present of Environmental History’, American Historical Review100, 4 (1995), pp. 1177–89
  • Richard Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1800(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • Donald Hughes, 'Global Environmental History: The Long View', Globalizations, 2/3 (2005), pp. 293-308.
  • Andrew C. Isenberg, 'Introduction: A New Environmental History', The Oxford Handbook of Environmental History, ed. Andrew C. Isenberg, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 1–20
  • Benjamin Lazier, ‘Earthrise; or, the globalization of the world picture’, American Historical Review (2011) 116, 3, pp. 602-30
  • R. McNeill and Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: an Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945(Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2016)
  • R. McNeill, ‘Observations on the Nature and Culture of Environmental History’, History and Theory, 42, 4 (2003), pp. 5–43.
  • R. McNeill, Something New Under The Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000)
  • Jason W. Moore, ‘The Capitalocene, part I: on the nature and origins of our ecological crisis’, The Journal of Peasant Studies (2017) 44, pp. 594–630
  • Emily O’Gorman and Andrea Gaynor, ‘More-than-human histories’, Environmental History, 25 (2020), pp. 711-35
  • Geoffrey Parker, Global Crisis: War, climate change and catastrophe in the seventeenth century(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014)
  • Kenneth Pomeranz, ‘Introduction: World History and Environmental History’, in Edmund Burke III and Kenneth Pomeranz (eds.), The Environment and World History(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), pp. 3–32
  • Joachim Radkau, Nature and Power: A Global History of the Environment, trans. Thomas Dunlap (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)
  • John F. Richards, The Unending Frontier: An environmental history of the early modern world (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003)
  • Libby Robin and Will Steffen, ‘History for the Anthropocene’, History Compass, 5 (2007), pp. 1694–1719
  • Sophia Roosth, ‘The Sultan and the Golden Spike; or, What Stratigraphers Can Teach Us about Temporality’, Critical Inquiry, 48, 4 (2022), pp. 697–720
  • Corey Ross, Ecology and power in the age of empire. Europe and the transformation of the Tropical world (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)
  • Perrin Selcer, The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment: How the United Nations Built Spaceship Earth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018)
  • Sverker Sörlin and Paul Warde, "The Problem of the Problem of Environmental History: A Re-Reading of the Field", Environmental History, 12, 1 (2007), pp. 107-130.
  • Julia Adeney Thomas, ‘Humanities and Social Sciences: Human Stories and the Anthropocene Earth System’, in Julia Adeney Thomas (ed.), Altered Earth: Getting the Anthropocene Right (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022), pp. 51-80
  • Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin, The Environment: A History of the Idea (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018)
  • Donald Worster, Alfred W. Crosby, Richard White, Carolyn Merchant, William Cronon, and Stephen J. Pyne, articles on environmental history in The Journal of American History, 76, 4 (1990), pp. 1087–1147