Centre for World Environmental History

Other CWEH News and Events

A pioneer botanist – a path-breaker in horticulture

by Girija and M.S.VIiraraghavan

A 2019 article about the scientist E.K. Janaki Ammal

Find out more

Has climate change escaped colonialism? A panel discussion with V. Damodaran, M. Mahony, and S. Schaffer

26 May

Professor Vinita Damodaran (University of Sussex) joined Martin Mahony and Professor Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge) on a special panel discussion on climate change and colonialism organised by the Cambridge HPS Anthropocene (Climate Histories) reading/seminar group.

Find out more

What the Adivasis of Eastern India can tell us about planetary health

Vinita Damodaran spoke as part of the Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History seminar series in the School of History Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh

Historians rarely peer into the future. We are trained to look at the past and draw lessons from the past. Being a historian today is particularly advantageous. Environmental historians have been interested in understanding turning points in history. Urban development 5000 years ago initiated by old empires was one major turning point marking a threshold for the creation of new resource demands and markets, the emergence of the industrial revolution from 1800 with its resource implications another. From the vantage point of today we can see that the period after 1945 with the rush to exploit fossil fuels on an unparalleled scale marks a further turning point in terms of our ‘planetary health’ dramatically affecting our global food production systems, the air we breathe, the water we drink, our exposure to infectious diseases, and the habitability of the places we live in. Changes to natural life support systems are already damaging our health as painfully exposed during the Covid crisis and are projected to drive the majority of the burden of disease over the coming century onto the most vulnerable and future generations particularly in the global south where health and education infrastructures are seriously underfunded. What role can history and the humanities play in understanding our heightened risk for an environmental and climate crisis in the contemporary period.? Using examples from Eastern India this presentation seeks to address such questions using a historical lens to explore pathways that address our uncertain future.


Collaborative exhibition

Hello Anthropocene! Goodbye Environmental History

Rohan D’SOUZA (Univ. de Kyoto) Moderator: Gonçalo Santos (CIAS / Sci-Tech Asia / University of Coimbra) (ENG)

The human in the Anthropocene is a geological force. Put differently, in the epoch of the Anthropocene the human is folded into Nature: possessing now a planetary scale impact equivalent to a massive meteorite, super volcanoes or huge tectonic shifts. That is, through unchecked carbon emissions leading to catastrophic global warming, we, as a species, are potentially poised to effect a sixth planetary extinction. Environmental history, on the other hand, presumed a biological human, who was constantly abrading against geography and ecological limits. Environmental history, however, interpreted and informed human agency and will. It carried lessons for sustainability and assembled ideologies for hope. In contrast, Nature is blind and if the human in the Anthropocene merges with geological time, who or what possesses the agency to save planetary life?

Watch on YouTube (particularly from 31.37)


Environment in COVID-19 Times

Vinita Damodaran and Raymond Ruhaak spoke at this event on Raising the risk for Covid; Environment, Climate and past zoonotic pandemics in Medieval Europe and colonial South Asia.

Further information


Climate signals, floods, droughts and famine in South Asia from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century

Vinita Damodaran gave a lecture at SOAS on 16 June 2020

Further details:
Climate signals, floods, droughts and famine in South Asia from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century


Climate signals, famine and livelihoods in India

Vinita Damodaran gave a public lecture in Lisbon on 3 October 2019

Further details: Climate signals, famine and livelihoods in India

Garden Party

CWEH had a well attended garden party on 19th July 2019 in Lewes

See a video: Garden Party


A scientific life

Vinita Damodaran lectured in Cambridge on 'A scientific life; E.K. Janaki Ammal and the patriarchy of science in the twentieth century'.

Hear the recording: A scientific life - South Asian seminar audio files


The Environment and Adivasis

In March 2017, Prof Vinita Damodaran, Gladson DungDung and Dr Rohan Dsouza spoke at Kolhan University on the Environment and Adivasis. They met with the Vice Chancellor and also have helped to set up the environmental History curriculum in Kolhan.

Environment and Adivasis Environment and Adivasis

Sussex help for Indian heritage in Shibpur

A proposal from the University of Sussex to restore an 18th century building - where the "father of Indian botany", William Roxburgh, lived - might save the heritage structure.

Abandoned since the 70s, the Roxburgh House at the Botanic Garden in Shibpur with its impressive portico and wooden spiral staircase is slowly giving in to the vagaries of nature and time. And the owner, the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), seems least interested in stopping it.

Read more: Sussex help for Indian heritage in Shibpur


Asa Briggs Fellows 2017

Seven Asa Briggs Visiting Fellowship awards have been made to prestigious group of International academics and Sussex faculty.  The Centre was host to Dr Sangeeta Dasgupta one of the Asa Briggs fellows.

More information: Asa Briggs Fellows 2017

Anna Winterbottom awarded the J. Worth Estes Prize

The American Association for the History of Medicine has awarded the J. Worth Estes Prize to Anna Winterbottom for her article, 'Of the China Root: a case study of the early modern circulation of materia medica', published in Social History of Medicine in 2015.


Australia, India and the Ecologies of Empire

Dr Ruth Morgan is visiting CWEH from 4th April until 15th May from Monash university. She will be collaborating with Prof Vinita Damodaran and Prof Alan Lester on her reserch project:

Australindia: Australia, India and the Ecologies of Empire, 1780-1914


Vinita Damodaran in Patna

Prof Damodaran in Bihar

Prof Damodaran was in Bihar to attend a major international conference on Bihar and Jharkhand, in Patna. She spoke on Adivasis in the Anthropocene; towards an environmental history of India.


MP praises Sussex University’s ‘Twelve Women’ exhibition

A series of portraits celebrating women at the University of Sussex, including Prof Vinita Damodaran, was recently on display at the Houses of Commons

Read more at: http://www.brightonandhoveindependent.co.uk

Crafty Orchids

Listen to Jim Endersby's fascinating programme Crafty Orchids which was broadcast recently on Radio 4. The programme draws on Jim's forthcoming book, which will be published later this year by the University of Chicago Press. 

Crafty Orchids

Dr. Kate B. Showers was invited to be the Keynote Speaker at CAS Herbsttagung, BOKU, Vienna Austria on 20 November 2015 

BOKU is Austria’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences. The gathering was the Centre for Agricultural Science’s 5th Annual Autumn Conference.

In recognition of 2015 having been designated the International Year of Soil, the conference title, "Boden und Landwirtschaft - Ökonomie, Ökologie und soziale Ansprüche" (which can be translated as “Agricultural land management under the stress of economic, environmental and social claims”) was selected. Dr. Showers was asked to address the consequences for soils of biofuels production.

Dr. Showers’ paper, “Biofuels’ Unbalanced Equations: Theoretical Demand, Misleading Statistics, and Measured Soil Capabilities” addressed all three of the conference topics. In the last 10 years, the market-based EU biofuels policies have created a significant fuel vs food debate in the context of serious global environmental disruption and destruction. Dr. Showers’ presentation included a review of econometric energy demand models and their application to predict future global energy requirements; recently constructed digital databases of soil and land resources; and GIS-based models used to identify land available for intensive biofuels production. The resulting modelled available land was described, and then subjected to a desk-top ground-truthing exercise. The presentation ended with a discussion of scale, contrasting industrialized approaches to biofuels production with those of more locally controlled and integrated systems.

Dr. Showers’ presentation was well received, and will be available on the BOKU U-Tube site. The paper will be published by BOKU’s journal in early 2016.

Vinita Damodaran and Rohan D'souza receive Norwegian Research Council grant

Vinita Damodaran and Rohan D'souza are in receipt of a Norwegian Research Council grant of NOK 373,810  for a project on on`Historical perspectives on Climate change, uncertainity and transformation in India'.

Various events in Summer Term 2015

World Meteorogical Organisation, International workshop

Dr Vinita Damodaran attended the World Meteorogical Organisation, International workshop on the recovery and digitisation of Climate heritage in the Indian Ocean rim countries and islands in Maputo, Mozambique from 21st-24th April 2014 and was part of an implementation plan for Indian Ocean Date rescue Initiative (INDARE) aimed at enhancing the quality and quantity of historical terrestrial and marine weather and climate observations. INDARE will therefore constitute a vital basis for the Global Framework for Climate services (GFCS) in the region and the genesis of long term collaborative efforts in the region, on climate date and its use in providing climate services.

Academia and Activism forum

The centre has received funding from the British Academy for the Academia and Activism forum through an early career network grant on Academia and Activism awarded to Anna Winterbottom linking academics and activists in Ghana, Zambia, Equador, India and Sussex.

See also: Conferences and Workshops page

Announcing a new book series: World Environmental History

Palgrave Macmillan

Series Editors
Vinita Damodaran, Sussex, UK
Rohan D’Souza, JNU, India
Sujit Sivasundaram, Cambridge, UK
James Beattie, Waikato, NZ

The widespread perception of a global environmental crisis has stimulated the burgeoning interest in environmental studies. This has encouraged a wide range of scholars, including historians, to place the environment at the heart of their analytical and conceptual explorations.

Further details

Indian orinthology: passage through time

Vinita Damodaran participated in this documentary film made by the centre for the Salim Ali Centre for Orinthology and Natural History, Coimbatore.
See the film: Indian orinthology: passage through time

Visit of CWEH team members in FRI, Dehra Dun

1-2 September 2013

This visit included a visit to Dehradhun.
Programme: Dehra Dun visit September 2013 [PDF 14.42KB]

MOU signed between University of Sussex, BL and Met office on climate records

Sussex collaboration with British Library and Met Office to understand environmental change in the Indian Ocean.

A grant made to the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) by the Global Transformations Research Theme helped facilitate initial networking meetings which have culminated in the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The University of Sussex, The British Library and The UK Met Office. The 3 have agreed to share historical weather and climate data to enhance understanding of environmental change in the Indian Ocean area during the colonial period. It is a hugely important period as European empires, the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese, brought about an unprecedented transformation of the landscapes and environments on the periphery of the Indian Ocean. The resulting ecological reshaping was closely documented and can be found in various types of colonial and indigenous documents but the issue is finding where relevant historical sources are held.

Further details: MOU signed between University of Sussex, BL and Met office on climate records [PDF 64.66KB]

Medicine in the Indian Ocean world, 1500-1800

CWEH is pleased to announce that Dr Anna Winterbottom who is a post-doctoral research associate of the centre has recently been awarded a British Academy award for her work on 'Medicine in the Indian Ocean world, 1500-1800'. Her project will run for three years and will complement the centres AHRC funded network on the botanical and meteorogical history of the Indian Ocean, 1600-1900.

Further details: Anna Winterbottom – ‘Medicine in the Indian Ocean World, 1500-1800’ [PDF 55.98KB]

CWEH meeting Energy conversation 2

The second meeting of the energy conversation will take place at 1.45 in Fulton 102 on the 26th October. We will continue our discussion of the social, technological and environmental contexts of electricity generation and distribution. Topics to be considered will include the origins and development of the concept of Desertec (Kate Showers, Geography/CWEH) and the developing debate about centralised or decentralised solar power generation (Ejaz Huq, Rutherford, Tony Prout, QUML and Anna Marie Coles, Greenwich).

Dodgy development in Orissa

A talk and film by Richard Whittell of Corporate Watch, London. 28th May 2012

View poster: Dodgy development in Orissa [PDF 114.68KB]

New AHRC grant

March 2012: The Centre for World Environmental History is pleased to announce that we have received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a two year network grant on the botanical and meterological history of the Indian Ocean, 1600-1900.

Vinita Damodaran on BBC Radio 3

Vinita Damodaran particiapted in a BBC radio 3 programme 'Night Waves on Natural Disasters' on March 23rd 2011.

Tristram Stuart awarded The Sophie Prize 2011

Tristram Stuart is awarded the Sophie Prize of 2011 for his innovative, energetic, humorous and thoughtful contributions to raising consciousness about one of today’s the most palpable environmental and moral scandals:  Food waste.

See http://www.sofieprisen.no/ for more information.

AHRC funded meeting - South Asian historical records and climate change

Vinita Damodaran attended this meeting in Bangalore 4-5 March 2011.

Photos (by Tom Corby) from the event can be viewed here:

March 2011

CWEH members involved in the making of two BBC films

Members of the CWEH team have been involved with regard to two recent BBC films, The Life and Times of Elnino, 2006 (Formal consultant, Richard Grove) and How the earth made us, 2010 (BBC interviewed Kate Showers, Vinita Damodaran and Rohan Dsouza).

February 2010

Association of South Asian Environmental Historians - Richard Grove Prize 2008

Niladri Chatterjee has been awarded the ASAEH-Richard Grove Prize 2008 for the best essay on environmental history submitted in this competition.

Further details: Richard Grove Prize 2008 [PDF 199.69KB]