‘Anthropocene Histories’ is a new monthly seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research, as part of its ‘Timely Interventions and Conversations’ partnership seminars. It explores the historical matrix of the ‘Anthropocene’, the proposed (and contested) geological epoch marking the earth system’s profound alteration by human activities. Proposed dates for the Anthropocene range from 50 to 10,000 years ago and this seminar takes a similarly wide perspective, both chronologically and disciplinarily. In the humanities and social sciences, the concept has become a powerful, if controversial, tool opening up different ways of thinking about humans, their environments, resource extraction, relations with non-human life, forms of violence, the global, and the shape of the past. This seminar provides a space to explore the issues and possibilities raised for historians by ‘the Anthropocene’. It aims to contribute to larger conversations by giving a thicker and more nuanced history to an idea often thinly-situated in politicised readings of modernity. Accounts of the Anthropocene need to address the ‘great acceleration’ of biochemical change arising from European colonialism, industrialisation and the fossil fuel era, but must be equally concerned with the deep-rooted histories of these processes, their institutions, and their supporting ideologies, from the earliest polities to the present. The seminar series hopes to build capacity and networks for the intellectual community of historians engaged with these questions. It is also an important and innovative way of bringing historians both here and abroad more closely into the urgent project of understanding and addressing the environmental and human challenges of our times.
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This series features in the following public collections: