[see update!] PhD funding at QUB for Before Energy Citizenship: Energy, Culture and Place-based Identities in the UK, 1950s–1990s

UPDATE: see the new advert, with extended deadline, here.

Applications are invited for a funded PhD position at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast.

Project: Before Energy Citizenship: Energy, Culture and Place-based Identities in the UK, 1950s–1990s

  • Type: Full Time PhD
  • Location: Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
  • Funding for: UK and EU* students 
    • *NI Department for the Economy funding regulations apply.
  • Application Deadline: 31 March 2021
  • Principal Supervisor: Dr Hiroki Shin

Project Description

This PhD project provides an opportunity to explore the historical interplay among modern energy life, public culture and consumer identity formation in late 20th century Britain.

The concept of energy citizenship has recently attracted intense academic interest in humanities and social sciences research on energy and climate change. In contrast to the conventional image of energy users as passive recipients of energy services, the scholarship on energy citizenship envisages energy users as active agents for energy systems’ evolution. This project contributes to the expanding literature on energy citizenship from a historical perspective by drawing upon the rich historiography on consumer citizenship and local/regional identity formation. Departing from the universalised idea of the ‘energy consumer’ identity, this project considers culturally attenuated and place-based modes of energy users’ identity formation, which have been shaped by local energy landscapes and local energy cultures. The project’s chronological focus begins with the 1950s, when modern energy appliances saw a strong penetration into Britain’s domestic and public spaces, and extends to the 1990s, a decade when the rise of the climate change debate began to question the energy-intensive consumer life. Through its investigation of the pre-history of energy citizenship, the project reconsiders the impact of modern energy consumption on social and cultural identity formation in late 20th century Britain.

The successful candidate will develop the project in her/his own direction, but some questions to address include:

  • How has modern energy life been articulated in cultural media, such as films, literature, museum displays and artworks, and what do they tell us about modern consumers’ identities as energy users, workers or citizens?
  • How have local energy landscapes (e.g., coal mines, power plants, gas fields, oil refineries, pylons and pipelines) contributed to the formation of distinctive local energy identities?
  • How have pre-existing local identities and memories shaped the public’s attitudes toward environmental movements, citizen protests and early responses to climate change discussions?

The candidate will develop case studies that ideally include some element of regional comparison within the UK. The project involves both online and archival research as well as an extensive survey of the existing literature on energy history, energy humanities, consumption history, cultural studies and science and technology studies. The candidate will be encouraged to incorporate non-textual sources into her/his study, including visual sources, material objects, heritage sites and oral histories.

All applicants must submit a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words on the research theme outlined in this call.

To apply for this studentship, please visit: https://www.qub.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-research/phd-opportunities/before-energy-citizenship-energy-culture-and-placebased-identities-in-the-uk-1950s1990s.html

CfP: ESEH 2021 “Same planet, different worlds: environmental histories imagining anew.”

The European Society for Environmental History biennial conference comes to the UK next year! The University of Bristol will host the ESEH conference from 5th to 9th July 2021.

The call for papers is now live, part of which is reproduced below.

For updates on the conference preparations follow @ESEH2021 on twitter, or visit the conference website here.

“Same planet, different worlds: environmental histories imagining anew.”

Bristol, United Kingdom | 5th-9th July 2021

The European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) is pleased to invite proposals for our upcoming conference at the University of Bristol, UK. We want to host a conference for a post-plague world. Right now, our old ways of living have been interrupted, disrupted and ruptured by the COVID-19 outbreak. This devastating global pandemic carries an undeniable message of our entanglement across continents, species, societies, and bodies. Yet the virus hits us differently. We are all on the same planet but we are experiencing radically and divergently altered worlds. We thus draw inspiration for our conference theme from Arundhati Roy’s observation: ‘But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next’. The conference will provoke questions and conversations that can help us through the gateway. After all, our conferences have always been meaningful reactions to global conditions. Twenty years ago, at St Andrews we held the first ESEH Conference on ‘Environmental History: Problems and Potential’. Two decades later, we are now long past ‘potential’ – we need urgent intervention from historians in the crises of our times.

We embrace history that matters and our discipline’s ability to create ‘useable pasts’ for unusual times. This conference moves from the premise of an entangled world: first and foremost enmeshed in a global pandemic, a shared ecological crisis and climate catastrophe, as well as cultural connections from past colonial and postcolonial histories. Understanding entanglements and challenging boundaries has been important in bringing us together over the years. In Prague, we considered the boundaries of ‘diversity’. In Zagreb, we tackled boundaries as ‘contact zones’. In Tallin, we explored the boundaries ‘in/of environmental history’. In Bristol, we cross the boundaries into a new world.

Thus this conference resists a ‘return to normality’. These are extraordinary times and this will be an extraordinary conference. At this critical moment, as historians we need to look without and within. Certainly, we need to engage with the wider world: environmental historians are vital in today’s biggest planetary emergencies. Yet at the same time, we need to engage within our own discipline to rethink our academic practices in terms of environmental realities. This means thinking about writing ethical history, sustainable history and history that matters.

We want to use this opportunity to imagine anew: both how we have conversations (the conference format) and what the conversations are about (the possibilities of our discipline). This conference thus will be engaging in experimental new ways of sharing and generating knowledge, including a blended and collaborative co-learning environment.

Possible topics to be discussed under the umbrella concept of ‘Same planet, different world’, include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Pandemics: Politics, panics and panaceas
  • Environmental histories of public health and public policy
  • Industrial and agricultural impact on disease
  • Resisting the return to normality: the activist historian and strategies for sustainable research
  • Environmental histories of ‘wicked problems’
  • Edge effects: the uneven fallout of climate change
  • Other knowledges: vernacular histories and indigenous knowledge systems
  • Burning issue: fire histories
  • Justice and the past: writing history in the time of Black Lives Matter
  • Technology and envirotechnical systems in natural resource protection and conservation
  • Environmental justice: the legacies of colonialism and post-colonialism
  • Writing more­-than-­human histories
  • Creativity and the historical discipline
  • The possibilities and pitfalls of interdisciplinary research
  • Imagining other futures

We also welcome papers/provocations/presentations on environmental history outside the conference theme.

[Read more…]

Upcoming talk – Small Fish in a Big Pond: The Pure Rivers Society, Water Pollution and Britain’s Second World War

Gary Willis, a PhD student in environmental history at the University of Bristol and friend of the Environmental History Workshop, will be giving a talk on his research into water pollution in Britain during the Second World War at the University of Greenwich. The below is taken from the talk’s Eventbrite page, where free tickets can be reserved:

History & Environment Talk

Thursday 13 February 2020, 5.45pm

You are warmly invited to hear a talk by Gary Willis (University of Bristol):

Small Fish in a Big Pond: The Pure Rivers Society, Water Pollution and Britain’s Second World War

Gary Willis recently discovered the archives of the “elusive” Pure Rivers Society in deepest Herefordshire. What does this tell us about Second World War era water pollution and the challenges of historical research?

Gary Willis had a first career in international development charities and the trade union movement. Having always been interested in the environment, British history and the Second World War, he undertook a MRes in Historical Research at the Institute of Historical Research in London, and is now in the third and final year of a PhD at the University of Bristol, looking at the impact on the British landscape of the Second World War. He published an article in Rural History in October 2018: ‘”An Arena of Glorious Work”: The Protection of the Rural Landscape against the Demands of Britain’s Second World War Effort.

Refreshments are available.

The talks are free and public.

The History & Environment Talks are presented by Raphael Samuel History Centre, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Greenwich Maritime Centre at the University of Greenwich.


Pylons with smoke through haze

Witness Seminar: The Birth of the Modern Environmental Movement in Britain

A guest blog from Mitya Pearson (King’s College London):

In June King’s is hosting a Witness Seminar on the birth of the modern environmental movement in Britain. This group oral history event will bring together individuals who were involved in environmental campaigning in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s alongside academic and non-academic experts in the area and contemporary environmental activists. This session will feed directly into my PhD research which is focused on the early history of British Green Party. So far, this research has included fifty extended interviews with early party activists and around twenty-five supporting interviews with individuals involved in other environmental campaigning activity during the 1960s and 1970s.

But how new was the environmental politics of this period? There is an ever-present danger of pinpointing expressions of environmental concern at different points in history and falsely ascribing a novelty to them. William Cavert’s work has demonstrated that while many have suggested concern about smoke (what would now be termed air pollution) was a reaction to the industrial revolution, it was already present in Britain throughout the early modern period. Discussion of nature and humanity’s relationship to it has been a feature of Western political thought since Ancient times.

Scholars concerned with the history of ideas have highlighted the links between contemporary environmental politics and various earlier movements including the romantics, pastoralism, Malthusians and, even, the Nazis. When tracing the concrete developments in the history of the environmental movement in Britain it is generally to the nineteenth century that people have been drawn. This is when the first environmental groups were formed including some which are still very prominent such as the RSPB and the National Trust.

There are though reasons to see the 1960s and 1970s as representing something of a discontinuity from what came before and, in some ways at least, the birth of modern environmental politics. Among various other related developments, this period saw an unprecedent growth in the size and number of environmental campaign groups. It is also widely agreed that there was a shift in approach during this period, environmental campaigning moved beyond concern about landscape and conservation and engaged much more with the underlying social, economic and political reasons for environmental degradation.

The aim of this session is to hear from some of the individuals who were motivated to campaign for the environment during this time. This will comprise a variety of perspectives including those involved in local voluntary activity and those who helped to setup and run national groups. The panels will also include individuals from some of the groups which were formed in the 1960s and 1970s as well as representatives from more traditional organisations which had been around for decades by the 1960s.

The witnesses on the first panel will provide their early memories of their efforts in either joining or setting up environmental organisations. The second panel takes inspiration from Stephen Hussey and Paul Thompson’s approach to studying what they describe as ‘one of the most profound changes in human consciousness over the last fifty years’: the realisation that nature is not an inexhaustible resource which we can plunder indefinitely to satisfy our immediate needs. It will focus on the ‘life stories’ of the individuals, how and why they came to be motivated to campaign on the environment.

To register for the session or for more information about it follow this link.

Mitya Pearson is a PhD researcher at the Centre for British Politics and Government (Department of Political Economy), King’s College London.

PhD funding available for #envhist

A full-time, fully-funded PhD research studentship is available from September 2019 on the project ‘Mosslands in early modern Lancashire: carbon, community and conservation, 1500-1800’, at the University of Manchester.

I’m really excited to be able to supervise this project. It’s an opportunity to push at the boundaries of early modern environmental history, and contribute to a critical conservation and restoration project.

The project will explain the historical decline of mossland landscapes in the North West and contribute to the restoration and reintroduction work of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. Mosslands are wetland peat landscapes that are the second largest carbon stores on Earth, and are home to unique species of flora and fauna. Despite their ecological value, the UK’s mosslands now cover just 3% of their historic maximum. By producing a history of these mosslands before industrialisation, this project will provide vital historical data to underpin ongoing conservation and restoration work, will demonstrate the historical and cultural value of mosslands, and will explain their role in the transition to an industrial fossil-fuel economy.

The project will focus around three core strands:

  • From peat to coal: energy transformations and the industrial revolution
  • Governing the commons: managing peat as a fragile common-pool resource
  • Creating a carbon landscape: the historic characters of a changing mossland environment

The studentship is a collaboration between historians at the University of Manchester and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT). The student will be required to work at both the University, and on-site at the LWT office and reserves, including Astley Moss, and Cadishead and Little Woolden Moss. The student will work with the LWT to present their findings to the public. The supervisors at Manchester are Dr John Morgan and Prof. Sasha Handley, and at the LWT Mike Longden (pictured above). A full project brief is attached below.

If you’re interested and would like some more information, drop me an email, or find me on twitter.

The deadline for applications is Monday 25 February at 5pm. Applicants should read the attachment below and submit the following to me at john.morgan@manchester.ac.uk:

  • An academic CV (max. 2 pages), including two named referees (one of whom should be your most recent academic tutor/supervisor)
  • A copy of your first degree and Master’s degree transcripts (or anticipated grade if masters is on-going)
  • A letter of application (not exceeding two pages) outlining your suitability for the CASE studentship and how you would anticipate approaching the research.

Find the full studentship advert, application details and project brief here.

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