A network of interdisciplinary scholars studying past climate change
Earlier this month, an international group of scholars met at the German Historical Institute in Paris to present new research and ideas on climate in history. The conference proved a rare event that managed to bring together Europeans and Americans, historians and climatologists. The program opened with a panel led by Rudolf Brázdil and Christian Pfister on the state of the art in both climate reconstruction and climate impact research. Further panels on the first day addressed medieval and early modern climate anomalies and impacts, mainly in Europe, but also including papers on the Arab World (Steffen Vogt) and colonial Mexico (Georgina Endfield). Between the panels came two keynote speeches by Martin Parry, on historians’ contributions to contemporary climate adaptation, and by Geoffrey Parker, on the crisis of the 1590s; and the day concluded with a public lecture by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (pictured). The second day’s session turned to new research on climate reconstruction and impacts, ranging from work on uncovering past tropical cyclones (Cary Mock) to the organizer Franz Mauelshagen’s paper advocating a new climate history of the anthropocene. The day also included a third keynote address by Dipesh Chakrabarty and closing roundtable discussion with John McNeill. Some of the key recurring issues to emerge from the meeting included the challenge of moving from climate reconstructions to understanding historical impacts; how to balance the climatologists’ quantitative approach with the historian’s more qualitative approach; and how to compare the histories of natural climate variability with modern anthropogenic climate change. The conference also served as an inaugural meeting for a planned international society on climate and history, to be organized throughout the coming year. In the meantime, the Climate History Network will continue as it is, but we plan to integrate the two somehow, once the formal society is up and running.
For a complete conference program, click here.
For a summary and review in German, click here.