ICHG 2015: Big Ideas in Historical Geography and “Door Crashers”

Natural History Museum, London. Source: S.Kheraj

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Rather than trying to re-cap each day of this six-day conference, I thought I would be more selective in my comments here and post one or two ideas, thoughts or remarks that stood out from the papers, plenaries, and discussions at the 2015 International Conference of Historical Geographers.

The first idea I want to highlight comes from Laura Cameron’s comments at the opening plenary. Alan R.H. Barker started the plenary with his talk titled, “Historical geography as an international discipline.” He surveyed the development of the ICHG itself since its origins in 1975. In Cameron’s remarks afterword, she noted the significance of “door crashers” at the first conference in 1975, the three US colleagues who joined what was intended to be a joint meeting of Canadian and UK historical geographers. These “door crashers” compelled the group to rethink the boundaries of the conference and expand its scope. Cameron then suggested that the 2015 conference, with its 720 delegates, was also host to a number of door crashers who will help expand the boundaries of the field of historical geography.

I certainly feel like one such door crasher. I have never been to a geography conference so there is much to learn here for me. While environmental history and historical geography share much in common, I’m not sure there has been as much cross-pollination between the two fields as we might assume. While I recognize many faces at this conference (scholars I have met at the American Society for Enviornmental History annual meetings and the World Congress for Environmental History) there are many more faces I do not know, most of which come from the world of geography.

So while I hope to make some sort of contribution as one of Cameron’s “door crashers,” I expect that I will gain much more from meeting and from engaging with colleagues in geography.

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Sean Kheraj is the director of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. He's an associate professor in the Department of History and associate dean of programs at York University. His research and teaching focuses on environmental and Canadian history. He is also the host and producer of Nature's Past, NiCHE's audio podcast series and he blogs at http://seankheraj.com.

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