How the Classic Maya Coped with Changing Climate Conditions

Many people think climate change caused Classic Maya civilization to collapse abruptly around 900 A.D. An archaeologist says that view is too simplistic and misses the bigger point. Carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere have reached 415 parts per million – a level that last occurred more than three million years ago, long before the evolution of[…]

Civilizational Collapse Has a Bright Past – But a Dark Future

Modern civilizations might also be less capable of recovering from deep collapse than their predecessors. Is the collapse of a civilisation necessarily calamitous? The failure of the Egyptian Old Kingdom towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE was accompanied by riots, tomb-raids and even cannibalism. ‘The whole of Upper Egypt died of hunger and[…]

A Rock, a Human, a Tree: All Were Persons to the Classic Maya

While the social category of ‘persons’ is found in multiple cultural contexts, who or what is recognized as a person can differ. For the Maya of the Classic period, who lived in southern Mexico and Central America between 250 and 900 CE, the category of ‘persons’ was not coincident with human beings, as it is[…]

Warriors of the Rainbow: The Birth of an Environmental Mythology

How did Greenpeace develop this affinity with Native Americans? The German branch of Greenpeace announced itself to the world in June 1981 when two activists climbed a smokestack in Hamburg and festooned it with a banner which read: Erst wenn der letzte Baum gefällt, der letzte Fluss vergiftet und der letzte Fisch gefangen ist, werdet[…]

The Neste War 1970–1972: The First Victory of the Budding Finnish Environmental Movement

Even though Neste tried to conceal its intentions, they were obvious enough to members of the local community. By Dr. Matias Kaihovirta, Dr. Hanna Lindberg, and Dr. Mats WickströmKaihovirta: Postdoctoral Researcher in Political HistoryLindberg: Postdoctoral ResearcherWickström: Postdoctoral ResearcherÅbo Akademi University On 30 October 1970, the local newspaper Västra Nyland revealed that the Finnish state-owned oil[…]

Trends in American Conservation in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Many of the protected open spaces that we have today have been inherited from one or more of three traditions. By Ann E. Chapman Introduction – Trends in the 19th Century Conservation thinking has evolved over centuries, often as a response to the profound land use changes that shaped the American landscape after the arrival[…]

Rugendas’ Iconography of the Animal Condition in 19th-Century Brazilian Society

Rugendas up the challenging mission of drawing and conveying the New World to Europe. A significant weakness of commonplace records of the first four centuries of Brazil’s history is that they do not capture the wide range of interactions between humans and nonhuman animals, nor recognize them as an essential element in the formation of[…]

Cropped Out: Environmental History Through a Car Window

A community in so many ways defined by reinvention butting up against land prized for its preservation in perpetuity. Introduction I don’t love to drive, but last year I committed myself to a lifestyle that revolves around it. I took a job teaching history in Greeley, Colorado, and decided to live in Fort Collins, about[…]

The Politics of the Turtle Feast in 18th-Century England

The humble sea turtle became the pinnacle of haute cuisine in the eighteenth century. From calipash to calipee, the green sea turtle was without doubt the most expensive, status-laden, and morally contested feat of eighteenth-century English cuisine. Virtually unknown as human food before mid-century, the amphibious reptile quickly became an enduring symbol of both refined taste and savage indulgence,[…]

Beer Brewing, Industrialization, and London Water Supplies Since the 16th Century

London was already a major beer producer in the sixteenth century. London was already a major beer producer in the sixteenth century. However, beginning in the eighteenth century, urbanization and industrialization meant a sharp increase in scale for brewers. Because brewers required large quantities of sweet water for manufacturing their product, this also resulted in[…]

Urwald Rothwald: The Survival of a Primeval Forest

How did this forest persist untouched through time? By Dr. Bernhard E. Splechtna (left) and Karl Splechtna (right)Bernard Splechtna: Professor of Environmental History, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU)Karl Splechtna: Managing Forest Director, Retired When Albert Rothschild came to visit his summer and hunting residence in Holzhüttenboden, the first thing was to saddle[…]

Seeking Environmental Knowledge from an Inuit Shaman

Geographical consultations with shamans showed the relationship between imperialism, exploration, and indigenous environmental knowledge.  By and large, British Arctic explorers lacked local knowledge of the environments through which they passed and, consequently, sometimes consulted Inuit shamans, whose geographical knowledge was known to be extensive. That these consultations could be made either in the formal atmosphere[…]

The History of the Niagara Telecolorimeter

The joint U.S.-Canada project turned the iconic waterfall into infrastructure designed to create both power and beauty. It is no secret that Niagara Falls has a long history as a major site of hydroelectric production and related industrial developments. What is perhaps less well known is that the famous cataract has been engineered to that[…]

Nature and Environment in Early Modern Europe

Analyzing the communication space and social construct of early modern Europe from the perspective of environmental history. Abstract This article approaches the communication space and social construct of Europe from the perspective of environmental history and traces the commonalities and differences in the interaction between humans and the environment. It is also a call for[…]

Versailles’ Drinking Water and the Last Service of the Marly Machine, 1859–1963

Since the foundation of Versailles by King Louis XIV, the city often lacked water. In 1859 Versailles and its more than twenty neighboring communities were presented with the new Marly Machine—a hydraulic pump that formed the cornerstone of Versailles’ drinking water supply. This event reinforced the dependence of Versailles on the Seine River and the[…]

An Endless Sediment Story: The First Five Decades of the Canal de Marseille

Up until this epoch, water resources consisted of an old and damaged medieval aqueduct. Operational since 1847, the 80 kilometer long Canal de Marseille, built by famous Swiss civil engineer Franz Mayor de Montricher, has allowed great improvement in the water supply in the city of Marseille, southeast of France. Indeed, during the first quarter[…]

The Good, the Bad, and the Ague: Defining Healthful Airs in Early Modern England

Combating malaria through travel, diet, natural remedies, and architecture in early modern England. From standing PoolesFrom boggs; from ranck and dampish Fenns,From Moorish breaths, and nasty Denns,The sun drawes up contagious fumes. Thomas Dekker, News from Graves End (1604) In 1664, Nathaniel Henshaw, a founding fellow of the Royal Society, conceived of an invention which, he thought,[…]

City Sanitation Regulations in the Coventry Mayor’s Proclamation of 1421

In 1421, the newly elected mayor of Coventry, England issued a proclamation that gives us insights into medieval urban sanitation concerns and their regulation in the later medieval period. On 25 January 1421, John Leeder, the newly elected mayor of Coventry, England, issued a mayoral proclamation outlining how the city would be run. He began[…]

Entomology and Empire: Settler Colonial Science and the Campaign for Hawaiian Annexation

Pest control was a political act in late-nineteenth-century Hawaiʻi, helping sugarcane planters pursue annexation to the United States. By Dr. Lawrence H. KesslerProgram Coordinator and Fellow-in-ResidenceConsortium for History of Science, Technology, and MedicineUniversity of Pennsylvania Pest control can sometimes be a political act, with ramifications reaching far beyond the targeted fields and farms. Such was[…]

Droughts and Agricultural Scarcity before Independence in the Viceroyalty of New Granada, 1800–1810

The crisis affected all kind of people: whites, mestizos, and indigenous people; herders, large cattle owners, and croppers of plantain. In May 1807, a group of farmers and ranchers from the lands around Santafe, the capital city of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (today Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia), wrote a complaint about meat[…]

Fishing for Souls: Water Technology and the Dutch Baroque

Examining how issues of representation and aesthetics impacted the environmental history of early modern Europe. Early modern interaction with water, be it through coastal flooding, stranded sea-life, or trial by ordeal, was one of the totemic means of decoding and countering divine power. Water was woven into the fabric of cultural life: it was an active[…]

The Riot that Destroyed an Abbey’s Salmon Weir in Medieval Scotland

The sheriff of Stirling was ordered by the king to make the perpetrators reconstruct the abbey’s infrastructure within forty days and reimburse its losses. In summer 1365 armed inhabitants of the royal Scottish burgh of Stirling “violently and unjustly attacked and demolished the weirs and fisheries” belonging to Cambuskenneth, a convent of Augustinian canons located across[…]