UCL Anthropocene


Professor John Sabapathy

Academic position: Professor of History

Department: History

Email: j.sabapathy@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Website: Professor John Sabapathy


I am a historian of knowledge, rationalities, bureaucracy, law, and accountability, specializing in the period 1100–1400 CE. I work on problems of institutionalization: how humans create institutions yet then find it difficult or impossible to reform or escape what they have created. Such problems are central to any account of the Anthropocene. I am working on two related book projects.

The Cultivation of Christendom explores the problematic success of Europe’s institutionalization as Christendom during the thirteenth century within a wide ecological and inter-cultural context.

Emergency History explores how history as a discipline can orientate us inside the Anthropocene. It ranges very widely chronologically, geographically, and disciplinarily,  providing long-term perspectives that challenge dominant, introverted short-term perspectives. It also explores how the Anthropocene challenges the discipline of history.

Before my academic career I worked with NGOs, companies, UK government departments and European Commission DGs on sustainable development and corporate accountability for the New Economics Foundation and AccountAbility.

Research Projects


  • ‘Emergency History: A Natural History of Humanity for the Present’ (HIST0399, undergraduate 2nd–final year thematic module)

  • ‘Comprehending COVID-19: A pandemic in social and historical perspective’ (interdisciplinary collaborative final year UG module)