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Global Perspectives on Crisis and Space in Preindustrial Environmental Histories

Fri, April 12, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Clark

Session Submission Type: Panel


As both public and scholarly interest increasingly focuses on contemporary environmental issues, the vital importance of studying the environment in preindustrial societies is often overlooked. Meanwhile, the turn to environmental history among researchers of pre- and early modern periods highlights both the risks and rewards of “presentism.” To refocus the historical discussion on the agency of preindustrial environmental regimes, our panel explores diverse ideas of environment-related crisis and the strategies that people in the past devised, whether successfully or not, to comprehend and endure it. Instead of thinking of crisis as a temporal concept, we ask how preindustrial societies understood this notion from a perspective of space and environmental management. Analyzing different local and regional histories of the period between 1400 and 1800, these four papers all examine crisis in specific water/maritime space that is not confined within the boundaries of the modern nation-states. All together, we show that the environment served as an active factor in its interactions with a number of known aspects of the preindustrial world, ranging from agriculture and fisheries, warfare and political legitimacy to maritime exploration and forced migration

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