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Week 8: Environment

Tutor: Dr Robert Fletcher

Across the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries developments in science and technology have transformed understandings of the concept of ‘the environment’. This week we will begin with core readings setting out the broader context for these changes, before exploring an example up close: the discourse of ‘desiccation’ and interventions in the world’s desert environments.

General readings

D. Worster, Nature’s Economy: a history of ecological ideas (Cambridge, 1994), esp. pp. 342-387.

R. Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism,1600-1800 (Cambridge, 1995).

A. Bashford, Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth (New York, 2014), ch. ‘Life on Earth: Ecology and the Cosmopolitics of Population’

Case study: desertification

R. Grove, 'Imperialism and the discourse of desiccation: the institutionalisation of global environment concerns and the role of the Royal Geographical Society, 1860-1880', in M. Bell & R. A. Butlin (eds.), Geography and Imperialism, 1820-1940 (Manchester, 1995), pp. 36-52.

V.K. Saberlwal, 'Science and the Desiccationist Discourse of the 20th Century', Environment and History, Vol. 3 (1997), pp. 309-343.

M. Hadley, 'Nature to the Fore: the early years of UNESCO's environmental programme, 1945-1965', in UNESCO (Ed.), Sixty Years of Science at UNESCO, 1945-2005 (Paris, 2006), pp. 201-225.

D.S.G. Thomas and N.J. Middleton, Desertification: exploding the myth (Chichester, 1994)
R.S.G. Fletcher, ‘Decolonization and the Arid World’, in A. Thompson and M. Thomas (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire (Oxford, 2018).

‘An Environmental Laboratory: “Native” Agriculture, Tropical Infertility, and Ecological Models of Development’, in H. Tilley, Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950 (Chicago, 2011).

Further reading

C.J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley, 1967)

Jeffrey K. Stine and Joel A. Tarr, ‘At the Intersection of Histories: Technology and the Environment’, Technology and Culture, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 1998), pp. 601-640.

P. Anker, Imperial Ecology: Environmental Order in the British Empire, 1895-1945 (Harvard, 2001).