Environment, Climate, and Heredity: the integration of environmental humanities with the history of heredity
20 July 09:00 to 18:00
Lecture Theatre, History Faculty, George Street, Oxford
Speakers include: John Waller (MSU), Angelique Richardson (Exeter) Samuel Randalls (UCL), Marianne Sommer (Lucerne), Staffan Müller-Wille (Exeter), Karen Sayer (Leeds Trinity), Matthew Holmes (Cambridge).
Workshop convened by John Lidwell-Durnin
The relative stability of agriculture and production of food enjoyed in the last century is entangled with the history of heredity. Experimentation in plant breeding produced both the crops that we rely upon and our knowledge of the laws of heredity and inheritance, while debates over human reproduction and population levels have always been entangled with anxieties over our agricultural production. What makes the history of heredity particularly important within the history of science is the large role played by the public: farmers, gardeners, and plant breeders have been the principal actors in advancing cultures of experimentation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, while physicians, educators and social reform workers have all contributed to public and wider understandings of human heredity, and the inheritance of traits and characteristics.
Environmental history and the environmental humanities have flourished in the last decade, producing new perspectives on these themes. As the environmental sciences and the conservation movement find themselves facing perennial public scepticism and challenge, there is a real opportunity for historians of heredity and researchers working within the environmental humanities to produce research that helps us to understand the longer history of the role played by the public not only in debating and contesting scientific authority on the environment, climate, and the use of natural resources, but also the special role long held by the public in contributing to scientific understanding of reproduction and adaptation.