European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results
CORDIS

Imperial Science and the Habitability of Central Asia and Mesopotamia, 1815-1914: A History of the Societal Consequences of Changing Environmental Limits

Project description

A novel approach in the study of societal climate crisis

Natural and man-made disasters significantly alter the landscape, sometimes making habitable places uninhabitable. While the effect of global anthropogenic climate change is new, the world has always had habitable and uninhabitable regions. Early attempts (1815-1914) by British and French imperial scientists to understand the limits on life used intellectual history methods to examine theories of environmental change instead of focusing on the imperial contexts on which those methods were based. The EU-funded HABITABILITY project will investigate the societal consequences of environmental change to close the research gap. It will place scientific and cultural ideas of uninhabitability into their historical contexts and establish habitability studies as the critical interdisciplinary methodology for an age of climate crisis.

Objective

Following a summer where parts of Europe flooded while others burned, this research addresses a fundamentally relevant question: what happens to societies when habitable places become uninhabitable? The large scale effects of anthropogenic climate change are new, but divisions of the world into 'habitable' and 'uninhabitable' regions are not, and have long shaped humanity. My project examines a pivotal part of this longer history by showing how between 1815 and 1914, British and French imperial scientists tried to measure the limits of life on earth in new ways (especially via the new sciences of geology, geography and ecology). There is nevertheless a significant research gap in that previous scholars have generally used intellectual history methods to examine theories of environmental change proposed by elite philosophers based in Europe, rather than addressing the imperial contexts in which this knowledge was made. Bringing an innovative combination of global history and history of science methods to archival sources, my project will close this gap by focusing on Central Asia and Mesopotamia, which became key to investigations into the societal consequences of environmental change (e.g. the movement of the Euphrates river causing cities to be abandoned). Examining the origins of these environmentally determinist imperial categories will simultaneously reveal their problematic legacies today (e.g. the idea of Afghanistan having an inherently 'violent geography'). This research thus aims to place scientific and cultural ideas of 'uninhabitability' into their historical contexts and pioneer 'habitability studies' as an essential interdisciplinary methodology for an age of climate crisis. This will also allow me to enhance my research skills (learning cutting-edge material culture and colonial archive methods) and expand my impact and international profile under the expert mentorship of Prof. Roland Wenzlhuemer to secure an academic position at a European university.

Coordinator

LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Net EU contribution
€ 173 847,36
Address
GESCHWISTER SCHOLL PLATZ 1
80539 Muenchen
Germany

See on map

Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
No data