UCL Anthropocene


Teaching environmental history & the Anthropocene: challenges and possibilities

15 December 2021, 3:30 pm–5:30 pm

Sculpture of creation of world and animals

'Teaching environmental history & the Anthropocene: challenges and possibilities' is part of our Anthropocene Histories seminar series with the Institute of Historical Research

This event is free.

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UCL Anthropocene

How can we teach environmental history most effectively? The field is both a longstanding and a somewhat marginal area in historiography. Despite its centrality to major intellectual shifts (such as the Annales), environmental history has arguably not achieved the importance it merits within the discipline more widely. That may be changing as students become more concerned by the accelerating climate crisis, and more mainstream history recognizes the interdependence of human life on other biosystems.

This discussion brings together a panel with a wide experience of teaching environmental history and the Anthropocene to discuss their experiences of assembling curricula, teaching environmental history, and developing new approaches to the topic to explore both the challenges and the possibilities of teaching environmental history and the Anthropocene.

Our panel:

Karen Jones is professor of environmental history at the University of Kent and works on parks, wolves and various critters, dead and alive. Her teaching includes ‘From Cholera to Climate Change: Environment and Society in Modern Britain’, ‘Attenborough to Zebra: Human-Animal Encounters in the Modern Age’ and ‘How the West Was Won (or Lost): The American West in the 19th Century. She is also on the steering committee of History UK.

Mark Levene spent many years as an academic banging his head against the wall of institutional inertia on climate change. The pros and cons of 'doing it yourself’ can be explored through Rescue!History which he founded in 2005. He also curated the ‘Rethinking History in the Light of Anthropogenic Climate Change Syllabus’.  Levene for his sins also writes about genocide and other forms of mass violence.

Amanda Power is Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford. She teaches an environmentally-inflected ‘global middle ages’ course, co-convenes the Climate Crisis Thinking in the Humanities and Social Sciences network, and has been involved in discussions about how to innovate in education in response to climate crisis, and how to include climate in history curricula. She is currently working on a book: Medieval Histories of the Anthropocene.

Giulia Rispoli is a cultural historian of science and ideas, and a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG, Berlin). Rispoli co-organizes and co-curates, along with Christoph Rosol, the interdisciplinary project Anthropogenic Markers, which emerges from a collaboration between the MPIWG, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), and the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG). 

John Sabapathy is Professor of History at UCL. He teaches courses on medieval history, COVID-19 in historical perspective, and ‘Emergency History: A Natural History of Humanity for the Present’, on the use of history in the Anthropocene.

All welcome, this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.