The Historian's Task in the Anthropocene

If “the Anthropocene” suggests a rupture of the Earth System where our future looks nothing like our past, what role is for historians? Are we simply antiquarians with no insight into this predicament, or can we still offer political critique? Julia Thomas addresses this question in three ways, explaining why many scientists find “the Anthropocene” a compelling concept; showing how this concept challenges the history’s disciplinary assumptions; and finally demonstrating how historians, through self-reflection on our practices, might contribute. Using the example of early modern Japan, she proposes a new form of critical history as we move from modernity’s promise of freedom and abundance to the more modest goal of sustainability with decency.