Historians and the Anthropocene: A Discipline and an Interdisciplinary Concept

September 21 |
17:00 to 18:30
Anthropocene Lectures

Christoph Rosol

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraße 22, Berlin 14195, Germany, Main Conference Hall
John McNeill (Georgetown University)

Lecture Abstract

John McNeil, a member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Union of the Geological Sciences, reflects upon the role of historians in the work of the AWG and the implications for historians of the debates surrounding the Anthropocene. Does the Anthropocene require historians to reconsider their habits with respect to periodization, evidence, units of analysis, and subject matter?

The lecture will be introduced by MPIWG Director Jürgen Renn.


About the Speaker

JR McNeill is Professor of History and University Professor at Georgetown University. He has held two Fulbright awards, and research fellowships from Guggenheim, MacArthur, and the Woodrow Wilson Center. His books include The Mountains of the Mediterranean (1992); Something New Under the Sun (2000), winner of two prizes, and listed by the London Times among the ten best science books ever written (despite not being a science book), and translated into nine languages; The Human Web (2003), translated into seven languages; and Mosquito Empires (2010), which won the Beveridge Prize from the AHA; and The Great Acceleration (2016). In 2010 he was awarded the Toynbee Prize for "academic and public contributions to humanity."  He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and former President of the American Society for Environmental History. In 2017 he was elected President of the American Historical Association.



About This Series

The Anthropocene—the geological epoch of humanity—has established itself as a key concept within a wider scientific and social discourse. In the midst of the dramatic and destabilizing changes to the basic conditions for life on our planet wrought by it, new potentials for human action upon the Earth are to be explored asking: What forms of cooperation can arise from the new awareness of the human role in the increasing interlacing of nature and technology?

In the framework of the Anthropocene Lecture series, a number of prominent speakers accentuating the Anthropocene debate are being invited to respond to a topic that will be a central challenge for many generations to come. With McKenzie Wark, Christian Schwägerl, Helmuth Trischler, Julia Adeney Thomas, Amanda Machin, John McNeill, and many more. The lectures take place at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the HKW, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam.