1st Edition

A Global Environmental History of Coastal Dunes

By Joana Gaspar de Freitas Copyright 2025
    264 Pages 22 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides a holistic perspective on coastal dunes, highlighting new insights into present day challenges to show that narratives, along with numbers, graphics and computer models, have a role to play in climate change science, policymaking, and citizenship awareness.

    Adopting a cross-disciplinary approach, this book combines fiction, history and science, to discuss past, present, and future ways of living in coastal areas. Dunes are hybrid environments, a combination of natural elements and human agency; they tell stories of values, traditional wisdom, institutions, empires, technology, vulnerabilities, coastal management, adaptation, and sustainability. Drawing on the past, Joana Gaspar de Freitas unpacks a diverse and fascinating history of dunes, linking knowledge, methods, and approaches from several case studies across the world, including France, Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, New Zealand, USA, and the UK. The book connects the bio geophysics of global change with the main driver of transformation - human agency - to integrate and address nature-society issues, taking human and nonhuman agents into account. In following the choices, paths, and strategies that created today’s coastal landscapes, the book generates greater awareness and understanding of how to shape coastal futures.

    This is an engaging, original and, fundamentally, important book that fills a gap in our knowledge of cities, infrastructure, economies, and cultures built on shorelines. A key read for scholars, researchers, and students in environmental history, environmental science, sustainability, coastal land management, and climate change.

    Prologue: A path through the dunes

    1. Pulling the dunes out of the archives

    2. The moving dunes

    3. Dealing with sand drift

    4. Turning dunes into forests

    5. Sowing the sands

    6. Crossing the Atlantic

    7. Reaching the Pacific

    8. The sands of the Indian Ocean

    9. Contested practices, unstable environments

    10. Dunes as a destination

    11. Vanishing coasts

    12. Connecting the dots


    Joana Gaspar de Freitas is an environmental historian at the Center for History, in the School of Arts and Humanities, at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. She has held fellowships at the Rachel Carson Center (Munich, 2015), the Linda Hall Library (Kansas City, 2014), and the Instituto de Estudos de Literatura e Tradição (Lisbon, 2011-2018). Between 2018 and 2024, she was the principal investigator of the project Sea, Sand and People: An Environmental History of Coastal Dunes (2018-2024), funded by an ERC Starting Grant. She is currently one of the editors of the journal Coastal Studies and Society.