Climate, Conflict, and Historical Method

How can historians contribute to investigating the ­relationships between climate change, ecology, and human activity? 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.

Taking as a starting point recent scientific work on the impact of climate in East Asian history, Nicola Di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in the School of Historical Studies, examines methodological issues involved in the historical examination of the relationship between climate change and warfare, conflicts, and the fall of dynasties.