A comparative approach to climate, environment and society in Eurasia: towards understanding the impact of climate on complex societies

This interdisciplinary project will investigate the impact of climatic changes across the last two millennia on societies in two environmentally sensitive areas:

  • The eastern Mediterranean basin (including the Balkans, Anatolia and the Near and Middle East).

  • The eastern Eurasian steppe, in particular Mongolia and the regions north of China.

The main foci of the project are (1) the differential impacts of climate and environmental change on society and state formation and (2) the impact of human society and polities on the environment.  

Two keywords embody the principles upon which the project is founded: consilience and resilience. The former reflects current efforts to integrate natural scientific with social scientific research techniques, methodologies and philosophies in a common effort; the latter reflects the leitmotif of the project, which is to investigate the ways in which climate and environmental stress has impacted on social, economic, political and cultural systems and the illustration of the outcomes of these impacts. The aims are thus:

  • Through a detailed historical analysis of the regions in question to expand understanding of societal transformation and environmental evolution.

  • Through the integration of social and natural science approaches to generate new methodologies through which to approach these issues and to generate new questions.

The project aims thus to generate a model of historical-evolutionary change through the development of an integrated and comprehensive approach. As noted already, the keyword is socio-cultural resilience, an understanding of the mechanisms underlying which is essential for insight into contemporary environmental change and the possibilities for future planning and policy.