Environmental History

Desert landscape with dried-up ground and dead trees

Environmental history as an expression of growing Anthropocene conscience?

What are the objectives of environmental history?

Environmental history is a relatively young field of study within the spectrum of historical disciplines. It has emerged along with growing environmental concerns and the environmental movement since the late 1960s. The contours of environmental history first shaped in the United States, before it drew attention in Europe. Today it is a global field of study with scholars from all parts of the world participating in it. Many first-generation environmental historians were environmental activists who shared concerns about nuclear confrontation during the Cold War, the peaceful use of nuclear energy and human health issues caused by industrial pollution. They had various disciplinary backgrounds, often in the natural sciences.

Environmental history expanded rapidly after the turn of the millennium as it became organized in the frameworks of international societies. Compared with the 1970s or 1980s, environmental historians are nowadays less outspoken than environmentalists or activists. However, they are more involved in cross-disciplinary cooperation than ever before and as scientific advisors in political processes. Environmental historians also contribute to the activities of the Anthropocene Working Group. If we suppose that the Anthropocene will be defined as epoch which began at some point during the Great Acceleration after World War II a definition currently preferred by a majority of the Anthropocene Working Group's  (AWG) members , we may well regard the emergence of environmental history as an expression of growing Anthropocene conscience.

Franz Mauelshagen


Researchers: Ulrich Brand, Erich Dragantis, Anna Echterhölter, Marta Luciani, Franz Mauelshagen, Olga Smith

Further Reading