On Friday, May 2, Nicola Di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, will give a public lecture, “Climate, Conflict, and Historical Method,” at 5:30 p.m. in Wolfensohn Hall. Di Cosmo will discuss how historians can contribute to investigating the relationships between climate change, ecology and human activity. In addition to searching for anthropogenic climate change, scientific research is making available volumes of data on the possible correlations between environmental change and social transformations over long periods of time. Yet, how strong and how precise a correlation one might be able to establish between phenomena like droughts, floods and volcanic eruptions and the emergence of conflict, the migration of peoples or the collapse of civilizations, remain open questions.
While research in environmental history addresses some of these issues, historians have been hesitant about attributing the causes of human crises and catastrophes to natural events, and wary of introducing scientific data in historical interpretations. Di Cosmo’s recent research addresses issues related to the impact of climate events on East Asian history, with a special focus on the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. One of the critical aspects of this study is the gulf between how science and history construct causal relations in the explanation of historical events presumably related to climate and environmental change. In this lecture, taking a cue from recent publications, Di Cosmo will examine methodological issues involved in the historical examination of the relationship between climate change and warfare, conflicts, the rise of empires and the fall of dynasties.
For more information please visit https://www.ias.edu/news/press-releases/2014/dicosmo-lecture