Nature and the Writing of History


The neglect of the environment stands in sharp contrast to the embrace by historians of other “turns” in the last 50 years. The social history turn of the 1960s still remains at the center of the discipline, although reconfigured by the linguistic and cultural turns. The gender turn has also dramatically reshaped the core of the discipline, as has the postcolonial. More recently the imperial and global turns have had a profound and widespread impact. Environmental history has not had a similar impact because, in contrast to other recent turns , the environmental has not produced a powerful theoretical statement on the centrality of its perspective for making sense of history as a whole. This lecture provides a way out of this impasse. It presents a framework for putting the natural world at the center of the writing of history for it argues that without nature historians cannot understand time. And where is history without time? 

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Boltzmannstraße 22
Berlin 14195