CfP: Virtual Panel on 'Perceptions of Climate Change in the Nineteenth Century' for the Social Science History Conference (11-14 Nov. 2021)

 Climate change is not a new phenomenon, and neither is global warming. The end of the Little Ice Age (roughly 1300-1850) implies that societies in the nineteenth century also had to deal with rising temperatures and all associated issues. Despite the current boom in climate-change research, we lack historical studies on how individuals and societies interpreted climate change before the impact of carbon dioxide emissions was verified.

The panel that is envisioned aims to shed light on the hitherto neglected question of how interpretations of climate change evolved in the nineteenth century. It will investigate how the relationship between humans and nature was perceived and the extent to which human actions were associated with climate change. If the sources permit it, papers are invited to combine regional, national and global perspectives.

  • Possible research questions might include and/or combine some of the following queries:
  • When and by whom was climate change interpreted in the nineteenth century?
  • What was considered to be climate change in the nineteenth century?
  • In what ways was climate change reflected upon in the nineteenth century (as a description, a search for courses, an impact assessment or proposal for solutions)?
  • How were human actions associated with climate change in the nineteenth century? Were humans seen as victims or as having the potential to act upon climate change?
  • How was human agency framed? As activism, denial or protest? Was climate change seen as an unwanted result of human activity in the nineteenth century? What kinds of human intervention were discussed to resolve which sort of problem?
  • How were concepts of nature and humanity intertwined in climate change discussions in the nineteenth century?
  • To what extent were humans considered to be a geological force in the nineteenth century? And with what consequences?
  • In discussing climate change in the nineteenth century, which regions, countries and continents were related to one another?

Papers should be about 20 minutes in length. Please specify in your proposal which primary sources you are using. Please send your proposal (title and abstract of max. 500 words) together with a short CV to Falko Schnicke ( The deadline for submissions is 12 March 2021. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by 13 March, as the panel proposal has to be submitted by 16 March to the Social Science History Association.

Contact Info: Dr Falko Schnicke, Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Department for Modern and Contemporary History