CfP: Living in a Toxic World (1800-2000)

11th International Conference on the History of Chemistry. Trondheim, Norway, 29 August-2nd September 2017

Living in a Toxic World (1800-2000)

Session organized by Ximo Guillem ( and José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez (
Institute for the History of Medicine and Science, University of Valencia: <>

Historical studies on toxic products have flourished during the last decade. The studies have been inspired in part by the growing social concern over the thousands of new products deposited every year into the atmosphere, rivers, sea, ground, our food, and our bodies. During the last two centuries, this range of substances has included mineral products (compounds of mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic), substances synthesized or isolated in laboratories (pharmaceuticals, plastics, and pesticides) and many other organic products (such as polyvinyl chloride, bisphenol-A, just to name a few). These substances have been employed for many different purposes: medical therapies, colorants, food additives, war weapons, fertilizers, pesticides, or even as part of everyday commodities. Historians have followed these products in different cultures and societies from different perspectives: history of chemistry, environmental history, history of public health, food history, or history of crime. A review of recent trends on these topics can be found in edited volumes such as Massard-Guilbaud and Mosley (2011); Le Roux and Letté (2013), Boudia and Jas (2013; 2014); Davis (2014); and Rodger and Johnson (2014), as well as in the recent special issue of Endeavour (Bertomeu-Guillem, 2016), and the essay reviews by Jas (2014) and Guillem (2015) in the journal Ambix.

The purpose of this session is to provide a multidisciplinary forum for current historical research on toxic products during the two last centuries (1800-2000). Papers are expected to cover issues related to the regulation of toxics, risk control, public and academic controversies, public and occupational health, law (toxic torts, environmental laws, poisoning trials, etc.), inequalities (environmental justice, toxic segregation, etc.), local and global circulation (dangerous trade, standards, international regulations, etc.). Papers can be organized around a particular space (rivers, mines, industries, etc.), historical actors (victims, poisoners, activists, lawyers, experts, politicians, industrial managers, mass media, etc.) or products (chemicals, drugs, tobacco, cosmetics, pesticides, fumes, fertilizers, asbestos, food adulterants, genetic modified organisms, nanomaterials, criminal poisons, etc.). Participants are expected to present a particular case (including work in progress) while addressing general historiographical issues and providing points for comparative analysis.

Proposals of approximately 200 words summarizing the contents of the paper, historical actors, main focus and general approach, accompanied by a brief CV (one page) of the author(s), are due by 15th January 2017. Please direct proposals or queries to Ximo Guillem ( and José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez (

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