A Cultural History of Climate Change: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Cultural History of Climate Change

1st Edition

Edited by Tom Bristow, Thomas H. Ford


224 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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Charting innovative directions in the environmental humanities, this book examines the cultural history of climate change under three broad headings: history, writing and politics. Climate change compels us to rethink many of our traditional means of historical understanding, and demands new ways of relating human knowledge, action and representations to the dimensions of geological and evolutionary time. To address these challenges, this book positions our present moment of climatic knowledge within much longer histories of climatic experience. Only in light of these histories, it argues, can we properly understand what climate means today across an array of discursive domains, from politics, literature and law to neighbourly conversation. Its chapters identify turning-points and experiments in the construction of climates and of atmospheres of sensation. They examine how contemporary ecological thought has repoliticised the representation of nature and detail vital aspects of the history and prehistory of our climatic modernity.

This ground-breaking text will be of great interest to researchers and postgraduate students in environmental history, environmental governance, history of ideas and science, literature and eco-criticism, political theory, cultural theory, as well as all general readers interested in climate change.


"As Gro Harlem Brundtland famously observed, "Current environmental problems require that we move beyond compartmentalization to draw the very best of our intellectual resources from every field of endeavor." This valuable collection of essays from a globally diverse group of historians and cultural scholars expands those resources in valuable ways by revealing new dimensions of the discourses surrounding climate change and the Anthropocene."James Rodger Fleming, Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, Colby College, Maine, USA

"Understanding the way climate change is altering the world – imaginatively as much as materially – requires the serious engagement of humanities scholars who can bring with them great depths of insight about how and why humans reason and imagine. This volume is the first to bring together leading contemporary humanities scholarship about climate change into a single coherent setting. The chapters help us to think together about what changes in our climates mean. They show that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help merely in the work of translation. Their distinctive insights necessarily alter the ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualized and acted upon."Mike Hulme, King’s College London, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction: Climates of History, Cultures of Climate Tom Bristow and Thomas H. Ford

Part 1 Climates of History

1. Voices of Endurance: Climate and the Power of Oral History Deb Anderson

2. Rethinking Seasons: Changing Climate, Changing Time Christian O’Brien

3. The Terrestrial Envelope: Joseph Fourier’s Geological Speculation Jerome Whitington

4. Melancholy and the Continent of Fire Tom Bristow and Andrea Witcomb

5. The Anthropocene and the Long Seventeenth Century: 1550-1750 Linda Williams

Part 2 Climates of Writing

6. Change Beyond Belief: Fictions of (the) Enlightenment and Simpson’s ‘Climate Change Suite’ Jayne Lewis

7. Fuels and Humans, Bíos and Zōē Karen Pinkus

8. The ‘Foreign Grave’ Motif in Victorian Medicine and Literature: Climate Therapy and The Limits of Human Environmental Control Roslyn Jolly

9. Climate Change and Literary History Thomas H. Ford

Part 3 Climates of Politics

10. Climate Change: Politics, Excess, Sovereignty Nick Mansfield

11. Para-Religions of Climate Change: Humanity, Eco-Nihilism, Apocalypse S. Romi Mukherjee

12. Litigation, Activism, and the Paradox of Lawfulness in an Age of Climate Change Nicole Rogers

13. This Is Not My Beautiful Biosphere Timothy Morton

About the Editors

Tom Bristow is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Thomas H. Ford is a Lecturer in English at Monash University, Australia.

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

From microplastics in the sea to hyper-trends such as global climate change, mega-extinction, and widening social disparities and displacement, we live on a planet undergoing tremendous flux and uncertainty. At the center of this transformation is human culture, both contributing to the state of the world and responding to planetary change. The Routledge Environmental Humanities Series seeks to engage with contemporary environmental challenges through the various lenses of the humanities and to explore foundational issues in environmental justice, multicultural environmentalism, ecofeminism, environmental psychology, environmental materialities and textualities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, environmental communication and information management, multispecies relationships, and related topics. The series is premised on the notion that the arts, humanities, and social sciences, integrated with the natural sciences, are essential to comprehensive environmental studies.

The environmental humanities are a multidimensional discipline encompassing such fields as anthropology, history, literary and media studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s and gender studies; however, the Routledge Environmental Humanities is particularly eager to receive book proposals that explicitly cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing the full force of multiple perspectives to illuminate vexing and profound environmental topics. We favor manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. Our readers include scholars and students from across the span of environmental studies disciplines and thoughtful citizens and policy makers interested in the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan (Rebecca.Brennan@tandf.co.uk), to submit proposals.

Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):

A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.

Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters

Series Editors:

Professor Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Professor Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA

Professor YUKI Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan

Previous editors:

Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Dr Paul Warde, Reader in Environmental History, University of Cambridge, UK

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia , Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Deborah Bird Rose, University of New South Wales, Australia, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
HISTORY / General
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Nature
NATURE / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy