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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Your observation about cross-pollination rings true to me, Sean. The two fields seem to be in closer contact in Canada than elsewhere, especially at places like UBC with strong traditions of research and teaching in both disciplines. The connections between Canada and Britain charted in this post continue as well: scratch many a British historical geographer, and you’ll find someone who’s visited or spent time at Point Grey.
In Britain, the connections between environmental history and historical geography aren’t as prominent. The latter has always been, and continues to be a important component of geography as practiced at British universities. The former has had very little presence in History departments there until recently, in part because of EH’s different roots/trajectory in Britain.
Where I did see useful points of cross-pollination, during my time in England, was between historical geographers and historians of science. There’s now a terrific body of work on “geographies of science,” much of it historically informed or focused. So you might see some good papers at the ICHG that treat topics of interest to environmental historians from a history-of-science perspective.