Sept. 1, 2020

Environments of Change: A Digital Journey

Dr. Steven Bednarski visits the LRC to talk about environmental history and digitizing nature through cross-disciplinary collaboration

"[…] traditional history […] has been devoted to the evolution and interaction of humans and human cultures in time [and] this comprises a cultural sphere of causation, where the interplay of human reason, emotions, goals, and actions operates with autonomy, determined by nothing outside that sphere" (Hoffmann 2014). Environmental History, however, places nature in the centre of the study of history. It holds the belief that humans and nature interact and co-evolve and examines their relationship in the forms of "homo et natura" and "homo in natura" (Hoffmann 2008). To understand how enduring and complex environmental challenges are across time and human cultures, this relatively new field involves varied methodologies and topics that call out for cross-disciplinary collaboration. Through such collaboration, scientific methods can strengthen and benefit from a historical understanding of past environments and inform insightful strategies for the world today.  

In this talk, Project Director and PI, Prof. Steven Bednarski, presented the goals and objectives of his SSHRC-funded project. Titled "Environments of Change: Digitizing Nature, History, and Human Experience in the Last Medieval Sussex", this project unites scholars from over a dozen disciplines with fifteen industry partners and will explore how digital technology gives insight into how the culture of the Middle Age treated climate change, more specifically, the immense environmental and cultural change in southern England, 1000-1500, which coincides with the gradual end of the Medieval Climate Optimum and the onset of the Little Ice Age. Through the Medieval Digital Research in Arts and Graphical Environmental Networks Lab (DRAGEN), and with the support of $2,500,000 in SSHRC funding and another $7,500,000 in partnered contributions, Environments of Change will provide 467 training opportunities over seven years to HQP, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral in Canada, the US, and the UK. 

About the speaker:

Dr Bednarski is a professor in Medieval history and a social historian of late medieval crime, gender and natural environment at St. Jerome’s University within the University of Waterloo.