Nov 5th, 2014
Research on climate change is essentially a study of the past. However, while predicting future developments rests firmly on the analysis of historical changes, cooperation between climatologists and historians is extremely rare. Instead, the field is mired by disciplinary constraints and the resilient dichotomy of 'natural' and 'cultural' factors. Integrative approaches are only just beginning to emerge. Fewer still are empirical case studies that test the interaction of climate impacts and human responses in small-scale, high-resolution analyses. This paper tries to provide examples of both, drawing on the field of famine-studies. It presents the vulnerability-approach as an interdisciplinary boundary object for climate research, introducing the global famine of 1770–1772 as a case study. In this way, the paper makes the case for a genuinely historical approach in climate research to replace the current mode of simply ‘predicting the past.’
Collet, Dominik. Predicting the past? Integrating vulnerability, climate and culture during historical famines. In: Julia Tischler and Heike Gresche (eds.): Grounding global climate change. Contributions from the social and the cultural sciences. Dordrecht, 2014, S. 39-58.
Oct. 10th, 2014
Workshop on early modern famines with Thore Lassen (Graduate School for Interdiscinplinary History, Göttingen)
On Oct 23th 2014 Thore Lassen will present his work on “Famine and Dearth in Lower Saxony (1690-1750)”. He is a member of the DFG-Research Training Group Interdisciplinary Environmental History at Göttingen University. He will present key results of his dissertation on the multifactoriality of famines and their role during the early modern ‘Herrschaftsverdichtung’ (governmentalisation) during a workshop with the Junior Research Group.
For more information on his project please refer to this web-page.
August 20th, 2014
Heidelberg University reports on the work of the JRG Environment and Society in a new press release (in German).
August 15th, 2014
Ruling Hunger. Socio-ecological entanglements of the First Partition of Poland and the European Famine of 1770-72
A new paper by the JRG Environment and Society studies the double, socio-ecological character of famines. Exploring the concurrence of the European Famine of 1770-72 and the First Partition of Poland (1772), the study traces the interactions between a crucial event of European history and an extreme weather anomaly. The environmental entanglement between the catastrophes of civil war and famine reveals the opportunistic appropriation of weather extremes by the parties involved. The observed plurality of human responses challenges deterministic models of human-environment interactions during extreme events.
Literature: Dominik Collet, Hungern und Herrschen. Umweltgeschichtliche Verflechtungen der Ersten Teilung Polens und der europäischen Hungerkrise 1770-72. In: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 62.2 (2014), pp. 237-254
July 17th, 2014
Workshop: Famines during the 'Little Ice Age' (1300-1800). Socio-natural entanglements in premodern societies
Workshop of the Heidelberg Center for the Environment at ZiF Bielefeld, February 19/20, 2015
Global climate change has put famines back on the agenda. The predicted rise of extreme weather raises the question, how similar events were met in historical societies. However, such studies are challenged by disciplinary constraints. Famines occur at the interface of nature and culture. They involve both the bio-physical as well as the social sphere. Their entanglement highlights the co-evolvement of natural environment and social actions. This broad socio-ecological character extends beyond the reach of individual disciplines. As a result, popular references to the dramatic impact of famines during the premodern era are often based on conjectures.
The workshop will bring together researchers from the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities. With reference to recent interdisciplinary concepts (disaster studies, vulnerability studies, environmental history) it will examine, how the dominant opposition of natural and cultural factors can be overcome. Such an integrated approach includes the "archives of nature" as well as "archives of man". In this way, deterministic models can be tested and replaced with a dynamic, historicising approach to the events. During the discussion we are seeking answers to the following topics:
- Which data, sources and case studies can make integrative approaches work?
- Which concepts and research designs overcome both climatically and culturally deterministic models?
- How can we improve our understanding of the entanglement and co-development of environment and society as well as the cultural consequences of extreme natural impacts?
- How can we uncover the complex historical perceptions, interpretations and coping strategies?
The workshop covers the agrarian societies of the "little ice age" (1300-1800), where famines constituted the "normal exceptions" to every-day life. The focus is on contributions that treat cases in Europe as well as Asia. We also welcome comparative, inter-cultural studies, interdisciplinary approaches and methodological considerations.
The event is organised by the research group "Environment and Society. Facing Famine in the Early Modern World” at the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE) and will be held at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) in Bielefeld. Travel costs and hotel accommodation of the speakers will be covered by the ZiF. The conference papers are scheduled to be published in an edited volume.
Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung
Researchers interested in joining us, are asked to send an abstract of the paper (max. 500 words) as well as a short biography by September 15th to: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Dr. Dominik Collet
Research group Environment and Society
Heidelberg Center for the Environment
Dr. Maximilian Schuh
June 26th, 2014
Foodscapes in Early Modern Europe and India. Die Nachwuchsgruppe auf der Second World Congress of Environmental History 2014.
In July the Junior Research Group presents a session at the Second World Congress of Environmental History " Environmental History in the Making"
Meet us am July 10th from 14.00 to 15.30h in Guimaraes, Portugal! More information: www.wceh2014.org
Foodscapes in Early Modern Europe and India
The fluctuation of food through historical societies has been described by Emmanuel LeRoyLadurie in terms of “feast and famine”. Its flows in time and space conditioned every phase of social life in agrarian corn societies: Grain and groceries constituted the pilot sector of the economy. Their supply regulated employment as well as the revenues of state, church, and nobility and dominated popular culture, memory, and mentality. The term “foodscapes” has recently been coined to reflect their sweeping hold on pre-modern society.
Integrated approaches that study both the natural and societal aspects of food environments are, however, still in their infancy. The panel will present new research that draws on emerging, inclusive research fields such as “food studies” or consumerism studies. The papers will focus on the late 18th century, a period of rapid and momentous change in the conception of historical food systems. They will ask, how the mutability of natural resources was used to legitimise new “experts”, “improvements”, and food regimes.
Manfred Jakubowski-Tiessen, Seminar für Mittlere und Neuere Geschichte, Göttingen
Famine Foodscapes during the Global Famine of 1770-72
Domink Collet, Heidelberg Centre for the Environment, Universität Heidelberg
Pomona's Gifts: Enlightened Debates about Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, 1750-1800
Denise Philipps, University of Tennessee, USA
Ruling by Hunger? The East India Company and the Bengal Famine
Dario Kaidel, Heidelberg Centre for the Environment, Heidelberg
Natural Disasters in North-East India: Famines in Mizoram since 19th Century
Jagdish Dawar, Mizoram University, Aizawl, India
May 14th, 2014
Hunger and Famine in Medieval Societies. The Junior Research Group at the International Medieval Congress 2014.
In July the Junior Research Group presents a session at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, the biggest conference for humanities in Europe.
Meet us July 7th from 14.15 to 15.45 in Leeds! More information: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/ims/imc/imc2014.html
Medieval societies were extremely vulnerable to hunger and famine. Climatic impacts as well as changing social and political conditions quickly resulted in catastrophes that affected many people. The session examines causes, courses, and consequences of famines in the high and late Middle Ages. Crusading armies in the 12th century, English society in the beginning of the 14th century, and the population of Rouen during the Hundred Years War were all hit by hunger and famine. Similarities and differences of these events are discussed to improve the general understanding of medieval famines.
The Sins of the Franks and the Treachery of the Greeks: Hunger and Disease in 12th-Century Crusade Chronicles
David Crispin, Exzellenzcluster 'Religion & Politik', Münster
Natural Impacts and Reactions of Society: The Great Famine in England, 1315-1322
Maximilian Schuh, Heidelberg Center for the Environment, Heidelberg
Famine in the Hundred Years War: The Siege of Rouen in 1419
Elise Wintz, Historisches Seminar, Münster
January 15th, 2014
"Schauplätze der Umweltgeschichte", the new book edited by Manfred Jakubowsky-Tiessen and Dominik Collet, has been published. You can download it here.
December 5th, 2013
Workshop at the Museum of Bread Culture with Dr. Fadani
With the first year coming to an end, the research group travelled to Ulm, where we were kindly welcomed by the Museum of Bread Culture. The museum is home to a unique collection illustrating the cultural practices surrounding bread in various European societies. Following the wishes of its founders, Willy and Hermann Eiselen, the museum focuses on famines as well as feasts and hosts a rich assemblage of objects relating to hunger, starvation and dearth. The director of the museum, Dr. Andrea Fadani, kindly opened up the depots and took us behind the scenes, where we discovered a wide range of objects (paintings, manuscripts, coins) relating to our case-studies. Dr. Fadani welcomed the chance to share his knowledge on the material record of historical famines - we will surely be back to work on the objects in detail in the future.
The museum's website with links to its various exhibitions and publications on feasts and famines can be found at museum-brotkultur.de.
November 18th, 2013
Guest lecture: Steven Engler, KWI Essen
Steven will present his work on famine migration within the "climates of migration" project (KWI Essen, Rachel Carson Center Munich) on November 18th. He will talk about "famine research in the context of vulnerability and resilience" and discuss the results of his PhD-thesis as well as the cross-disciplinary cooperation of his team. More info on his project can be found here.
November 1st, 2013
Invited fellow: Daniel Krämer
Daniel Krämer joins the research group as invited fellow. In 2013, Daniel completed his Ph.D. thesis on the 1816/17 famine in Switzerland (the "year without a summer") and is now preparing it for publication. During his stay in Heidelberg he will work with the group on integrating cultural, climatic and demographic data-sets for the study of historical famines. He will also contribute to the group’s workshop "Archive der Natur / Archive der Gesellschaft". His faculty homepage at the university of Berne with more details on his research can be found here.
October 22nd, 2013
JRG start-up workshop (in German)
Archive der Natur / Archive der Gesellschaft. Integrative Perspektiven auf historische Klimaextreme
Workshop, Universität Heidelberg, 29.11.2013
Das Forschungsfeld der Mensch-Umwelt-Interaktionen ist von der Sprachlosigkeit zwischen Natur- und Kulturwissenschaften besonders betroffen. Gerade die Untersuchung historischer Klimaextreme leidet unter disziplinären Grenzziehungen. Klimatologen beschränken sich zumeist auf die Rekonstruktion externer Faktoren, ohne ihre gesellschaftlichen Folgen in den Blick zu nehmen. Umgekehrt konzentrieren sich Historiker ausschließlich auf den Bereich der menschlichen Akteure. Natürliche Faktoren wurden in ihrem Fach weitgehend marginalisiert, seit sich die Geschichtswissenschaft von der Naturgeschichte entkoppelt hat. Verknüpfungen von "Archiven der Natur" und "Archiven der Gesellschaft", die Klimatologen bzw. Historiker untersuchen, sind bisher selten.
Der Workshop bringt Wissenschaftler aus Natur- und Kulturwissenschaften zusammen. Ziel ist es, vor dem Hintergrund neuerer integrativer Ansätze (disaster studies, vulnerability studies, environmental history) auszuloten, wie die in den jeweiligen Fächern analysierten Archive zusammengeführt werden können. Welche Daten und Fallbeispiele eignen sich besonders, um integrative Ansätze fruchtbar zu machen? Welche Brückenkonzepte und Forschungsdesigns können klima- und kulturdeterministische Ansätze überwinden? Wie lässt sich die Dynamik von Umwelt und Gesellschaft mit neuen Methodeninventaren besser als bisher abbilden?
Der Workshop wird von der interdisziplinären Forschergruppe Environment and Society. Facing Famine in the Early Modern World ausgerichtet, die seit kurzem am Heidelberg Center for the Environment die Verschränkung und Ko-Entwicklung von naturaler Umwelt und menschlichem Handeln in historischen Gesellschaften untersucht.
Tagungsort: Internationales Wissenschaftsforum Heidelberg, Hauptstraße 242, 69117 Heidelberg
Teilnahme: Es steht nur eine eng begrenzte Anzahl an Plätzen für Gäste zu Verfügung. Wir bitten daher um vorherige Anmeldung per Email an email@example.com
Organisation: Dr. Maximilian Schuh
9:00 Dominik Collet (Heidelberg):
|Begrüßung und Einführung|
|9:15-10:15 Session 1|
|Christian Pfister (Bern):
|Alleine sind wir stark, gemeinsam sind wir unschlagbar. Extremereignisse und ihre Abbildung in Narrativen Daten und Proxy Daten|
|Rüdiger Glaser (Freiburg):||Daten, Methoden, Erkenntnisse und Perspektiven zur Analyse vorinstrumenteller Klimaextreme
|10:45-11:45 Session 2|
|Jan Esper (Mainz):||Klimaextreme in Baumringarchiven|
|Gerrit Schenk (Darmstadt):||Grenzen des Wissens oder: Wie und was kann man aus der historischen Untersuchung von Katastrophen lernen?|
|13:15-14:15 Session 3|
|Daniel Krämer (Bern):||Das Problem der Messbarkeit des Hungers. Limiten der klassischen Indikatoren|
|Ulf Buentgen (Zürich):||Dendrochronologische Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte|
|14:30-15:30 Session 4|
|Bertil Maechtle (Heidelberg):||Aus disziplinärer Perspektive zum interdisziplinären Konsens – neue Horizonte am Beispiel Peru
|Thomas Meier (Heidelberg):||Logische Probleme in Raum und Zeit: (Un)Möglichkeiten der Korrelation kultureller Praktiken mit Klimaveränderungen|
|16:00 Ende der Veranstaltung|
October 1st, 2013
New team member: Dario Kaidel joins the research group.
Dario Kaidel has joined the research group as a PhD-candidate after completing his MA in anthropology and South Asian history at
He will work on the Bengal Famine of 1769-72 studying ways of facing climate extremes in an early colonial setting. The rare concurrence of the food crisis in Bengal with a severe famine in Europe during the 1770s allows to compare non-Western and Western strategies and research cross-cultural processes of transfer, appropriation and exploitation.
The Bengal famine killed up to 10 Million people. It has usually been associated with the end of “dual government” and the assertion of British rule in India. It has also been associated with a shift in the perception of India from a "land of plenty" to a land of poverty. Supplementing earlier research with a broader ecological perspective will illustrate the scope of Indian and of British practices of support and their roots in Asian and European human-environment-systems. Drawing on a wealth of local sources as well as the meticulous documentation of the East India Company, Dario will re-evaluate the practices of"facing famine" during the crisis and provide a fresh view on "colonial climates" in India as well as Europe.
August 1st, 2013
Destiny on the plate! Research Group at ESEH 2013
In August the research group presents a session at the conference "Circulating Natures – Water – Food - Energy" hosted by the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH).
Meet us on August 24th in Munich from 13.30h-15.00h. More info: http://www.eseh2013.org/
Destiny on the plate. Foodscapes and food regimes in early modern Europe.
The fluctuation of food through historical societies has been described by Emmanuel LeRoyLadurie in terms of “feast and famine”. Its flows in time and space conditioned every phase of social life in agrarian corn societies: Grain and groceries constituted the pilot sector of the economy. Their supply regulated employment as well as the revenues of state, church, and nobility. It dominated popular culture, memory, and mentality and shaped historical concepts of nature. The term “foodscapes” has recently been coined to reflect their sweeping hold on pre-modern society.
Integrated approaches that study both the natural and societal aspects of food environments are, however, still in their infancy. The panel presents new research that draws on emerging, inclusive research fields such as “food studies”, social ecology or consumerism studies. The papers focus on the late 18th century, a period of rapid and momentous change in the conception of historical food systems. Looking both at times of want and times of plenty, the presentations highlight food as crucial "contact zones" of religious, economical, ecological and cultural spheres in central Europa and Scandinavia. Drawing on new research, they will ask, how the mutability of natural resources was used to legitimise new “experts”, “improvements”, and food regimes.
- Timo Myllyntaus (Turku, FIN):Chair
- Dominik Collet (Heidelberg, DE): Famine foodscapes: Bread as gift and resource during the Global Famine of 1770-72
- Daniel Larrson (Göteborg, SWE): After the wars. Hunger, nutrition and the possibilities of new supply strategies in 18th-century Sweden
- Maximilian Schuh (Heidelberg, DE): Environment and society in late Medieval England. The Great Famine 1315-1317
July 15th, 2013
Collet, Dominik; Lassen, Thore and Schanbacher, Ansgar (eds.) 2012. Handeln in Hungerkrisen. Neue Perspektiven auf soziale und klimatische Vulnerabilität. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen.
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