New Earth Histories brings the history of geosciences and the history of select world cosmologies together. We aim to produce a fresh and cosmopolitan history of environmental sciences, analysing the significance of geological time and multiple cosmologies for global modernity itself.
A kaleidoscopic rethinking of how we come to know the earth.
This book brings the history of the geosciences and world cosmologies together, exploring many traditions, including Chinese, Pacific, Islamic, South and Southeast Asian conceptions of earth’s origin and makeup. Together the chapters ask: How have different ideas about the sacred, animate, and earthly changed modern environmental sciences? How have different world traditions understood human and geological origins? How does the inclusion of multiple cosmologies change the meaning of the Anthropocene and the global climate crisis? By carefully examining these questions, New Earth Histories sets an ambitious agenda for how we think about the earth.
The chapters consider debates about the age and structure of the earth, how humans and earth systems interact, and how empire has been conceived in multiple traditions. The methods the authors deploy are diverse—from cultural history and visual and material studies to ethnography, geography, and Indigenous studies—and the effect is to highlight how earth knowledge emerged from historically specific situations. New Earth Histories provides both a framework for studying science at a global scale and fascinating examples to educate as well as inspire future work. Essential reading for students and scholars of earth science history, environmental humanities, history of science and religion, and science and empire.
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Professor Alison Bashford, FBA, FAHA, FRHistS
Alison Bashford is Co-Director of the New Earth Histories research program and Director of the Laureate Centre for History and Population at UNSW. Her research connects the history of science, global history and environmental history into new assessments of the modern world, from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Prior to her appointment at UNSW, she was Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History at the University of Cambridge.
Dr Jarrod Hore
Jarrod Hore is an environmental historian of settler colonialism and Australian geology and Postdoctoral Fellow on the ARC Discovery Project ‘Antipodean Geology: A History of Southern Hemisphere Earth.’ His work on settler colonial identity, landscape photography, early environmentalism and antipodean Romanticism has been published in Australian Historical Studies, History Australia and the Australian Book Review. Jarrod holds a PhD from Macquarie University (2019) and in 2020 he was the David Scott Mitchell Memorial Fellow at the State Library of New South Wales. His first book, Visions of Nature, is forthcoming with University of California Press.
John Gascoigne was educated at Sydney (BA hons 1), Princeton (MA) and Cambridge Universities (PhD and Litt.D) and is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He has taught in Papua New Guinea and has been at UNSW since 1980. His publications have dealt with the impact of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment along with eighteenth-century exploration. His most recent monographs are Captain Cook. Voyager between Words (Continuum, 2007), winner of the Frank Broeze biennial prize of the Australian Maritime History Association, Encountering the Pacific in the Age of the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 2014), and Science and the State (Cambridge University Press, 2019).
Grace Karskens is Emeritus Professor of History in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales. Her research areas include Australian colonial and cross-cultural history, Aboriginal history and environmental history. Her books include Inside the Rocks: The Archaeology of a Neighbourhood, the multi-award winning The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney and The Colony: A History of Early Sydney, which won the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for non-fiction. Grace's latest book People of the River: Lost Worlds of Early Australia was published by Allen & Unwin in 2020.
Dr Katarzyna Jeżowska
Dr Katarzyna Jeżowska is a cultural historian with a particular interest in design from Eastern Europe. Her PhD (Oxford, 2019) examined the role of design, craft and architecture in imagining ‘modern Poland’ in the three post-war decades. Currently she is completing the manuscript of her first book, which examines the ways in which the socialist state utilised modern design and architecture in international diplomacy during the Cold War period. Her new project, Coal Nations and Carbon Cultures, considers the political potential of industrial exhibitions, placing coal at the forefront of historical enquiry. By examining the complex relationship between natural resources, industrial products and national identity, the project seeks to explain both Poland’s and Australia’s longstanding reliance on this increasingly problematic material resource.
Dr Emily Kern
Emily Kern is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, where she researches and teaches the intellectual and cultural history of modern science. She is currently at work on a book about the long history of the African origins hypothesis and the search for the cradle of humankind, under contract with Princeton University Press. Her research focuses on the relationship between the production of scientific knowledge about the human species and the production of global political power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (BA 2012) and Princeton University (PhD 2018). At Princeton, she was awarded a Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship (2017-2018) and held a Graduate Prize Fellowship from the University Center for Human Values (2016-2017).
Dr Adam Bobbette
Adam Bobbette is a geographer and Lecturer in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow. His research relates to the intersections of people with vulnerable and volatile environments. Following a PhD from Cambridge, he is working on a book, “At Earth’s Edge: The Political Geology of Indonesia”, that focuses on the intersection of politics and geology through the lens of Indonesia’s volcanoes.
Emeritus Professor David Christian
David Christian is an internationally recognised historian of Russia, the Soviet Union and Inner Asia who, since 1989, has been instrumental in the development of Big History. Over the last 30 years, Prof. Christian has written history at all scales and across many disciplines, publishing eight sole-authored monographs and delivering many influential seminars, lectures and talks. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities, and the Royal Society of New South Wales.
Professor Pratik Chakrabarti, FRHistS
University of Manchester
Pratik Chakrabarti is Chair in History of Science and Medicine at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester. Pratik holds a PhD from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has held numerous positions in India and the United Kingdom since 2000. Pratik has contributed widely to the history of science, medicine, and global and imperial history, spanning South Asian, Caribbean and Atlantic history from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. He has published four sole-authored monographs and several research articles in leading international journals on the history of science and medicine.
Professor Nigel Clark
University of Lancaster
Nigel Clark is Professor of Human Geography at the Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster. Nigel’s scholarship engages themes at the heart of the environmental humanities, such as the relationship between humans and nature, the social studies of science and technology, more-than-human ethnography and extinction studies. He has contributed widely to debates around the human consequences of the emerging geological epoch of the Anthropocene.
Professor Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of History and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. A world-renowned geologist, historian and public speaker, she is a leading voice on the role of science in society and the reality of anthropogenic climate change.
Dr Alessandro Antonello
Alessandro Antonello is a Senior Research Fellow at the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University. His first book, The Greening of Antarctica: Assembling an International Environment was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. His current project investigates the ways in which states, international organisations, and international communities have engaged in the context of current environmental and geopolitical challenges to the ocean. In this, he analyses how these actors built institutions, communities, and territories in and for the ocean environment as a foundation for generating knowledge and claiming power, rights, and resources.
Associate Professor Gregory Cushman
University of Kansas
Gregory T. Cushman is Associate Professor of International Environmental History at the University of Kansas. His first book Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History (Cambridge University Press, 2013) received the Turku Book Prize from the European Society of Environmental History and the RCC, the inaugural Jerry Bentley Prize in World History from the American Historical Association, and awards from the Agricultural History Society and the Southern Historical Association.
Professor Saul Dubow
University of Cambridge
Saul Dubow is the Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History and a Fellow of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge. His research covers the history of segregation and apartheid; Commonwealth, imperial and post-colonial history; the history of science; and the political dimensions of global intellectual thought. His most recent work, ‘The Scientific Imagination in South Africa 1700 to the Present,’ co-written with William Beinart, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2021. Professor Dubow is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies.
Dr Amy Way
Amy Way is a historian of science who specialises in human antiquity in Australia and its conceptualisation within geology, archaeology and anthropology. Amy received the Vice Chancellor’s Commendation for Academic Excellence for her PhD dissertation (2020), and in 2021, was awarded the Australian Historical Association’s Ann Curthoys Prize for her study of Aboriginal antiquity in Australian anthropology. Her current work is centred on palaeontologist and museum director Robert Etheridge Junior.
The future of the planet is an overwhelming problem, which stretches and confounds the limits of human conception. In our climate-changed present attempts to confront this topic have swelled with an understandable sense of urgency and a compelling ethical force. Inspired by this, Historians on Planetary Futures presents perspectives that explore the interrelated ecological, biopolitical, and existential challenges that face humans across multiple temporal and physical scales. The series will broach new histories of the planet and its future that explore the nature of spatial, temporal, and disciplinary boundaries, the connections between politics, humans, and earth processes, and the traditions, opportunities, and difficulties of thinking about the future.
The historians in this series bring a set of concerns and questions that broaden and deepen our collective conversations about possible futures of the planet Earth and the entanglement of such visions with the viability of human habitation. What pasts prefigure planetary futures? How have planetary futures been produced and reproduced by discrete projects of world-making? When and why do planetary futures revolve around the question of human population? Do planetary futures ever slip out of anthropocentric frames? How have world, earth, and planetary histories overlapped and how have they diverged?
By asking questions like these historians might traverse the threshold between planetary pasts, presents, and futures, and strike a balance between the urgency of our times and what Donna Haraway calls the ‘sublime indifference’ induced by despair of what’s to come.
The first seminar in this series took place on 27 July, with David Christian, ‘Should Historians Spend More Time Thinking about the Future? A link to this seminar and a full schedule of future events will be available shortly.
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Distinguished Visiting Professor Pratik Chakrabarti questions the epistemological premises of deep history and mounts an argument that it is complicit in the Western and colonial appropriation of global nature, time, myths and capital. This online lecture took place on 14 July. It was followed on 15 July by a roundtable featuring Prof. Chakrabarti, historians Prof. Lynette Russell (Monash), Prof. Ann McGrath (ANU), Dr Shino Konishi (UWA), Dr Ben Silverstein (ANU) and Dr Emily Kern (UNSW). Chaired by Prof. Alison Bashford, the panel discussed the whiteness of deep history, the characteristics of European naturalism, and the enchantment and disenchantment of the natural world.
Decolonising geology was a discussion held on July 3, 2020, hosted by the New Earth Histories Research Program at the University of New South Wales. It was moderated by Adam Bobbette and included Ruth Gamble (La Trobe University), Cin-Ty Lee (Rice University), and Christopher Wilson (Flinders University). The discussion was about how researchers from different fields—history, earth sciences, and archaeology—understand the relationship between geology and society, time, cosmology, Indigenous knowledges, and what it means to decolonise geology.
New Earth Histories Conference
From 4 to 6 December 2019, UNSW City Campus
New Earth Histories hosted over twenty-five scholars from Australia, the United States, England and Asia at a conference that focused on the cosmopolitan history of environmental and Earth sciences. Speakers analysed the significance of geological time and multiple cosmologies for global modernity in a series of illuminating and inventive discussions. Final comments were delivered by Distinguished Visitor Prof. Naomi Oreskes and Prof. Sverker Sörlin.
Coastal Waters & Terraqueous Histories of the Pacific
11 April 2019: Alison Bashford’s Terraqueous Histories frames analysis of the Pacific at American Society for Environmental History conference.
Panel at the American Society for Environmental History, Columbus, Ohio.
Alison Bashford, An Intimate History of Evolution: The Story of the Huxley Family (London: Penguin, 2022).
Jarrod Hore, Visions of Nature: How Landscape Photography Shaped Settler Colonialism (Oakland: University of California Press, 2022).
Jarrod Hore, ‘Chains of Custody, Oceans of Instability: The Precarious Logistics of the Natural History Trade,’ with Vanessa Finney and Simon Ville, Journal of World History (2022).
Jarrod Hore, ‘Settlers in Earthquake Country: Apprehending Instability in New Zealand and California,’ Pacific Historical Review (February 2022).
Alison Bashford, Pratik Chakrabarti and Jarrod Hore, ‘Towards a Modern History of Gondwanaland,’ Journal of the British Academy (2021).
Jarrod Hore, ‘Reckoning with Urgency: Crisis & Radical Environmental History,’ Australian and New Zealand Environmental History Network, Insights Series (June 2020): https://www.environmentalhistory-au-nz.org/insights/articles-essays/reckoning-with-urgency-crisis-radical-environmental-history/
Jarrod Hore, Review of Pete Minard, All Things Harmless, Useful & Ornamental: Environmental Transformation Through Species Acclimatization from Colonial Australia to the World (University of North Carolina Press, 2019), in History Australia 17, 3 (2020), 578-580.
Alison Bashford, ‘The Family of Man: Cosmopolitanism and the Huxleys, 1850-1950’, Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development, 12, no. 1 (Spring 2021). Special issue ‘Cosmopolitanism’ ed. Valeska Huber.
Alison Bashford, 'Beyond Quarantine Critique', Somatosphere, March 6 2020.
Emily Kern,'Archaeology enters the ‘atomic age’: a short history of radiocarbon, 1946–1960', British Journal for the History of Science, 53, no. 2 (2020), 202-227.
Alison Bashford, ‘On nations and states: a reflection on ‘Thinking the Empire Whole’, History Australia, 16, no. 4 (2019), 638-641.
Alison Bashford, Chris Otter, John L. Brooke, Frederik A. Jonsson, and Jason Kelly, 'Roundtable: The Anthropocene in British History,' Journal of British Studies, 57, no. 3 (2018), 568-596.
Adam Bobbette, 'Singing Disappearance: Javanese Songbird Competitions and the Ventriloquizing of Extinction,' Cabinet, 66, (Spring 2018-Winter 2019).
Alison Bashford, ‘Deep Genetics: Universal History and the Species’, History and Theory, 57, no. 2 (2018), 313-22.
Adam Bobbette and Amy Donovan, eds. 'Political Geology: Active Stratigraphies and the Making of Life,' Palgrave/Macmillan, 2018.
Alison Bashford (ed.), 'Oceanic Histories,' (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). Co-editor with David Armitage and Sujit Sivasundaram.
Alison Bashford, ‘Terraqueous Histories,’ The Historical Journal, 60, no. 1 (2017), 1–20.
Zeynep Oğuz, Adam Bobbette
The adoption of plate tectonics in the 1960s as scientific orthodoxy was one of the most profound scientific revolutions of the 20th century. It transformed the status quo understanding of the earth system, its history and evolution. By combining existing explanations of the earth into a new unity, the narrative created a novel, late 20th century imaginary that continues to shape our understanding of the earth.
While the history of the science of plate tectonics is well enough documented, its cultural and political consequences are not. For such a profound change in understanding, scholars have not sufficiently traced its effects.
How did plate tectonics change everyday life, political projects and imaginaries, in the late 20th century and into the 21st?
Some of the questions we intend to address with this special issue are: How did plate tectonics create new forms of belonging and togetherness, theories of race and ethnicity? In what ways did it transform religion and myth? How does it shape ongoing political struggles over territory, indigenous rights and epistemologies? How did it speed up, expand or create new extractive machines, techniques and intersect with theories of sovereignty and environmental law?
The approach of this is inspired by the geological turn of the past decade, which has called for a greater appreciation of the intersections between geological material, the geological sciences and modern culture. The Anthropocene has raised awareness of the intersections between geology and society, while concepts of 'geosocial formations' and ‘geopoetics' have sought in their own ways to theorise the intersections between geology and culture. The emerging enthusiasm for non-Western traditions of geological and cosmological knowledge have provincialised Western geology and from this has emerged a new attention to “new earth histories” that de-emphasise the exceptionalism of Western geological science. This special issue seeks to understand how plate tectonics was informed by non-Western cosmologies and how it, in turn, hybridised with world cosmologies.
Send abstracts of 400-500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our aim is to compile research essays for a special issue.
New Earth Histories Research Program
Morven Brown Building, Rms 243-247
University of New South Wales
Earth scientists know a great deal about the geological history of Gondwanaland and its breakup that began 180 million years ago, eventually creating present day Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Asia and Antarctica. This project addresses the possibilities that emerge when we consider Gondwanaland’s national and continental fragments according to a series of modern environmental, cultural, political, colonial, and postcolonial histories. Aware of its now-proliferating trans-local meanings, we situate Gondwanaland, first, in the central Indian homeland of the adivasi Gond people, who lent the supercontinent its name in the late nineteenth century. From here the developing geopolitics of Gondwanaland are harder to anticipate. Gondwanaland’s modern history is strange and little understood, our idiosyncratic ‘transnational’ project seeking to open up its recent past, and in a way bring Gondwanaland back together again.
Scoping its significance across both human and earth histories, the Gondwana/Land project brings together historians of Antarctica, Australia, southern Africa, South Asia and South America.
This project launched in July 2021, and includes lead researchers Alison Bashford (CI, UNSW), Alessandro Antonello (CI, Flinders), Jarrod Hore (UNSW), Pratik Chakrabarti (Manchester), Gregory Cushman (Kansas), Saul Dubow (Cambridge).