Reply To: 1. Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History 1. Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism Reply To: 1. Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism

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michael.deflorian.3871@student.uu.se # Posted on February 5, 2014 at 09:48

Reply on Mirabel Joshi’s reflection posted on February 4th, 14:41

Mirabel makes a very good point in emphasizing Gunnel’s recommendations for historical research: without taking nature into account the whole picture is incomplete. A historian can not claim to understand the past of the Northeast Bengal region without including nature in its various forms as a subject of inquiry: it is the monsoon floodings which change the livelihoods of local communities constantly, it is the water flows which make trade through this region possible and it is the wavy, inaccessible landscape which led to a quite arbitrary border between today’s India and Bangladesh. Nature DOES change over time and it influences human thinking and behaviour inevitably. In this sense, Collingwood is proven wrong in his anthropocentric conception of history and every historian is well advised to broaden her scope to the non-human drivers of the past.

Mirabel’s third point of reflection is noteworthy as well and can be extended to the nation state as the institutional background of most historical analyses. Every historian of today is born and raised in the “environment” of the modern state, with all its practices to govern individuals on a fixed territory. This raises the question of how a historian can reenact the thoughts of someone who has never experienced the state as a political institution before; or how it might feel for someone who is supposed to “build” a new state on a territory and people that are used to other forms of governing. “To do history forwards” entails to not take any institutional environment for granted but to conceive it as something that had become – and has to be rearticulated to stay in the present.