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versión On-line ISSN 2309-8392
versión impresa ISSN 0018-229X

Historia vol.54 no.2 Durban  2009


Environmental history: Complex connections around the constancy of change


Omgewingsgeskiedenis: Ingewikkelde ineenskakeling om voortdurende verandering



Jane Carruthers

Professor Jane Carruthers has been a member of Unisa's Department of History since 1980 She pioneered environmental history in South Africa and is prominent internationally in this field She has held prestigious Fellowships at the Universities of Cambridge, the Australian National University and the University of Western Australia She is a highly rated South African National Research Foundation social scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa Jane's major research interests lie in the fields of environmental history and the history of conservation biology, but she has also published on comparative South African-Australian history, heritage and nineteenth-century travel and art history The author would like to thank the University of KwaZulu-Natal and, in particular, Professor Robert Fincham, for inviting her to present this important annual lecture in memory of Professor Ruth Edgecombe Sections of this paper were included in the keynote address presented at the European Society of Environmental History Conference in Amsterdam in 2007




This article has been adapted from a paper presented in the Ruth Edgecombe Environmental Challenges Lecture Series, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, on 1 October 2008. It outlines the contribution of Professor Edgecombe to the study of environmental history in South Africa. Using the title of Edgecombe's book, The Constancy of Change A History of Hlobane Colliery, 1898-1998 (1998) as the over-arching metaphor, the article celebrates the links that Edgecombe was so adept at making and to explore the nature and challenges of environmental history. The author stresses how nexus between nature and culture -the "connections" between regions, timescales, disciplines and biota - are at the core of the subdiscipline and illuminate previously neglected aspects of human and natural history. As is explained, environmental historians have been able to engage with the changes in the urgency of environmental concerns and to address issues such as climate change, genetically modified foods, animal ethics and other challenges of the twenty-first century.

Key words: Environmental history; historiography; interdisciplinary; Ruth Edgecombe


Hierdie artikel is 'n aangepaste weergawe van 'n lesing wat gehou is as deel van die Ruth Edgecombe Omgewingsuitdagingslesingsreeks, aangebied deur die Universiteit van KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, op 1 Oktober 2008. Dit skets die bydrae van professor Edgecombe tot die bestudering van omgewingsgeskiedenis in Suid-Afrika. Deur die titel van haar boek, The Constancy of Change A History of Hlobane Colliery, 1898-1998 (1998) as oorkoepelende metafoor te gebruik, vier die artikel die ineenskakelings wat Edgecombe met soveel vaardigheid kon maak om die aard van en uitdagings wat omgewingsgeskiedenis bied, te ondersoek. Die skrywer beklemtoon hoe die verband tussen natuur en kultuur - die verbintenisse tussen streke, tydskale, dissiplines en biota - die kern van die sub-dissipline vorm, en werp die lig op voorheen afgeskeepte aspekte van menslike en natuurgeskiedenis. Soos verduidelik word, was omgewingsgeskiedkundiges in staat om by veranderinge in terme van die dringendheid van omgewingskwessies soos klimaatsverandering, geneties veranderde voedselsoorte, diere etiek en ander uitdagings van die een-en-twintigste eeu betrokke te raak.

Sleutelwoorde: Historiografie; interdissiplinêr; omgewingsgeskiedenis; Ruth Edgecombe



Full text available only in PDF format.



* Adapted from a paper presented in the Ruth Edgecombe Environmental Challenges Lecture Series, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1 October 2008
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63 Hays, "Toward Integration in Environmental History", pp 59-68
64 Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007
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69 McNeill, "Observations on the Nature and Culture of Environmental History"
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