University of Nottingham

Climate histories

Project outline

This network speaks to the theme of 'Histories of Environmental Change' by asking how people around the world perceive, narrate, and frame changes in their environment and climate. How can such accounts be gathered methodologically and what challenges does their interpretation raise? It aimed to make a major contribution to academic debates on environmental change, by making a cross-cultural explanation of the ways in which environmental knowledge practices, apprehensions of risk in terms of future-oriented strategies, and decision-making processes are informed by an understanding of past process. 

Fenland Fenland


The project organised a series of virtual forums, internal workshops and a conference in order to achieve its aims.

Workshop 1

Location: Pembroke College, University of Cambridge
Date: 17th-18th June 2010

This initial event took the form of two virtual forums. A trans-disciplinary vision of methodological issues emerged through discussion. This vision will not only enrich the research methods of the Cambridge core group but will also provide the basis for broader methodological debate, particularly concerning culturally informed notions of evidence, as well as the ambiguous connections between historical conceptions, environmental knowledge and communications strategies. This will be of value to both climate scientists and climate activists and NGOs.

Workshop 2

Location: Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Date: 16th October 2010

This was an internal work-in-progress workshop for network members that provided the opportunity to assess the methods formulated in workshop 1 in relation to specific fieldwork and begin to formulate themes and arguments collectively. Workshop participants were invited to post description, discussion, and visual images onto the project website. These preliminary discussions also provided the basis for our initial contact with schools through both electronic means and face-to-face visits.

Workshop 3

Date: 18th March 2011
The final workshop was an internal work-in-progress event for network members that provided the context necessary for producing a coherent body of work which is likely to take several forms: panel presentations at conferences, dedicated journal publications, individual papers. In addition, this workshop provided the chance to frame our findings for the benefit of future long-term research aims and applications.

Project conference

Location: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge
Date: 21st-22nd January 2011

The themes of the network informed the conference and offered subjects of interest to a broad invited audience. The final round-table discussion attempted to link our awareness of historical process to our awareness of contemporary challenges embedded in complex social interactions that extend well beyond the university. We also used the conference setting to establish a working group that crosses university and non-academic lines that will seek more long-term support for the network and the research aims with which this network is associated.

The network also aimed to foster a critical engagement with the portrayal of and public reaction to representations of catastrophic events caused by climate change, and to this end we offered a free public screening of the Hollywood film The Day After Tomorrow. The film was followed by a panel discussion about how such millennial visions of environmental apocalypse are effective – or not – in communicating knowledge of environmental change. We also put on a small art/photographic exhibition illustrating the kinds of narratives and communications we record in our fieldwork (e.g. excerpts from stories), in order to introduce the public to the key themes of the network.



In addition to the workshop discussions, network members have developed plans for an edited publication on communicating knowledge of environmental change, created a web forum for schools and the public to engage with geographically diverse and historically informed research relating to climate change and strategies for dealing with climate events, and formulated an application for a substantial research project on the topic of environmental histories.

Project web page:

 Climate Camp


Award details

Duration: May 2010 - May 2011, duration 12 months

Principal Investigator:
Dr David Sneath

Dr Barbara Bodenhorn

Higher Education Institution:
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Related links


Landscape and Environment Programme

School of Geography
University Park
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 84 66071