Despite still being in the relatively early stages of the project, plotting various archival forays and seeking to narrow down some of the thematic areas I’m interested in developing, I’ve got quite a few writing tasks on the go.
The first of these is a review article for WIREs Climate Change on ‘Climate & Colonialism’ which I’m writing with my Nottingham colleague Georgina Endfield. In this we hope to crystallise recent debates about how ideas of climate informed ideas of empire, but also to examine recent scholarship in other areas of environmental history which have dealt with some of the more prosaic practices by which colonial actors came to terms with climatic difference, extremes, and change. This will build on the classic works of the likes of Richard Grove, David Livingstone and Morag Bell, but will also examine emerging research in agricultural history, the history of colonial forestry, and medical history. The aim is to tease out some of the links between broad ideologies of climatic difference, and the more concrete practices of making knowledge about climate in colonial settings.
Another project I’m working on is an edited collection I’m putting together with Sam Randalls at UCL, tentatively titled ‘Weather, Climate, and the Geographical Imagination: Placing Atmospheric Knowledges’. This stems from a conference session we organised last summer, and seeks to examine how human and environmental geographies shaped the production of knowledge about weather and climate, and in turn how such knowledge informed broader imaginative geographies of imperial, global and economic space. We’ve got some great contributors lined up, and we’ll all be gathering in Nottingham in July to thrash-out the details of the volume and to make sure all the chapters speak to each other. Alongside the workshop Vlad Jankovic has agreed to give a public lecture on some of his recent thinking about climate, architecture, and the ‘environmentalisation’ of modernism, which promises to be fascinating. More details to follow…
I’ll be contributing a chapter to the book which will focus on the postwar Groundnut Scheme in Tanganyika, examining the processes of expert advice which went into the planning of the scheme, and focusing in particular on the role of Albert Walter. He was the founding director of the British East African Meteorological Service and played a controversial part in the setting-up of the Groundnut Scheme. Taken on as an official meteorological advisor, he clashed with more ecologically and agriculturally minded experts over the rainfall at the proposed sites. As I described in a previous post, he was subsequently relieved of his duties, and watched on with a grim sense of ‘I told you so’ as the scheme succumbed to successive droughts, and as even the latest ideas on artificial rainmaking couldn’t coax a good crop of groundnuts from the parched soil.
One other writing project which will hopefully be wrapped-up soon is another edited collection I’m helping out on, this time with historian of science Matthias Heymann and philosopher Gabriele Gramelsberger. The book, ‘Cultures of Prediction in Atmospheric and Climate Science’, gathers together a range of science studies scholars, along with some practicing atmospheric scientists, to examine the shifts brought about by the emergence and spread of computation and simulation in efforts to study and predict the atmosphere. All the chapters are now in place save for an expanded and revised introductory section which we’ll be working on over the next few weeks. Hopefully it’ll be on its way to bookshops and library shelves in the not too distant future though, courtesy of Routledge’s environmental humanities series.