PIIRS Climate Change and History Research Initiative
A comparative approach to climate, environment and society in Eurasia: towards understanding the impact of climate on complex societies
This interdisciplinary project investigates the impact of climatic changes across the last two millennia on societies in two environmentally sensitive areas:
- The eastern Mediterranean basin (including the Balkans, Anatolia and the Near and Middle East).
- The eastern Eurasian steppe, in particular Mongolia and the regions north of China.
The main foci of the project are (1) the differential impacts of climate and environmental change on complex societies and state formation and (2) the impact of human society and polities on the environment.
Two keywords embody the principles upon which the project is founded: consilience and resilience. The former reflects current efforts to integrate natural scientific with social scientific research techniques, methodologies and philosophies in a common effort; the latter reflects the leitmotif of the project, which is to investigate the ways in which climate and environmental stress has impacted on social, economic, political and cultural systems and to illustrate of the outcomes of these impacts. The aims are thus:
- To expand the understanding of societal transformation and environmental evolution through a detailed historical analysis of the regions in question.
- To generate new methodologies and research questions by integrating social and natural science approaches.
Through the development of this integrated and approach, the project generates a model of historical-evolutionary change. As noted already, the keyword is socio-cultural resilience, an understanding of the mechanisms underlying which is essential for insight into contemporary environmental change and the possibilities for future planning and policy.
So far we have held three multidisciplinary colloquia, eleven public lectures, and two introductory workshops for historians on the sciences of dendroclimatology and palynology. A special journal issue dedicated to the project’s research is in the making. Our plans for 2016/7 are listed under Upcoming Events below; our plans for 2017/8 will be announced in late spring 2017.