Historical research in the time of the Anthropocene: can climate data help us read the past (and, if so, how)?

cd event cosmo

Historical research in the time of the Anthropocene: can climate data help us read the past (and, if so, how)? 

Professor Nicola Di Cosmo (Princeton University)

Over the past few decades historians have investigated paleoclimate data seeking answers to long-standing questions the premodern world that may be linked to climate variability. At the same time, scientists have sought to find in historical knowledge keys to better understand the impact of climate on societies.  Have these collaborations enhanced our understanding of climate’s role in shaping the human past?  This talk will examine the results yielded by interdisciplinary research on climate and history, and the issues they raise in terms of methodology, theoretical assumptions, and the general goals of a climatic “turn" in historical research. 

Nicola Di Cosmo is the Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, USA) since 2003. He received his PhD from the Department of Uralic and Altaic Studies (now Central Eurasian Studies) at Indiana University in 1991, and held research and teaching positions at the University of Cambridge, Harvard University, and the University of Canterbury (New Zealand). His main field of research is the history of the relations between China and Inner Asia from prehistory to the modern period. Within that broad area he has published widely on the history (political, military, and economic) of China’s relations with steppe nomads, and on Mongol and Manchu history. His most recent works explore the use of proxy data from climatology and other palaeosciences in the study of China and Central Asia, with special reference to early Eurasian nomads, the Mongol empire, and the Qing dynasty.  Most recently, he has collaborated with climatologists and archaeologists in the research project "Volcanoes-Climate-History" at ZiF (Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung, Bielefeld University, Germany) from 2021 to 2024.


This talk is organised in conjunction with the Oxford Centre for European History and the Oxford Centre for Global History.