CFP: Timber Colonialism Workshop

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Iva Lucic, Uppsala University and Jim Clifford, University of Saskatchewan

The workshop will be held in Uppsala on November 9th and 10th, 2023. We will apply for funding to support travel to Sweden, but the workshop will be hybrid for those unable to attend in person. We plan to publish the proceedings in a special issue of a journal.

The timber industry extended European colonialism into new regions during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It provided essential building materials for urban industrial growth and railways. Older economic history scholarship focused on the declining demand on forests during industrialization as mineral coal replaced charcoal or iron hulls replaced timber in shipbuilding. Recent scholarship confirms that new demands for timber outpaced the reductions, as railway sleepers and mass urbanization required a growing supply of construction timber.1 It is clear that timber was essential to industrialization, and the role of timber extraction in driving colonialism deserves further study.

This workshop aims to advance research on natural resource extraction by looking at the dynamics and modes of colonialist timber exploitation worldwide. Moreover, given the specific nature of trees as a renewable resource and that the forests were an essential local resource before the industrialist and capitalist-driven extraction, the workshop aims to provide new perspectives on extractivist colonialism. Thus, it analytically explores essential aspects such as the sustainability of renewable resources, spatial expansion of colonialist extraction, and specific conflict constellations with local societies. A second aim is to offer new perspectives on the logic of the global interconnectedness of natural resource extraction and consumption. Most global histories focus on commodities traded across the conventional North-South global divide, according to which the North is portrayed as the external exploiter of the resource-rich regions in the Global South. This workshop aims to deconstruct the north-south binary by applying theories of extraction-based colonialization and peripheralization to areas located across the globe. We welcome contributions to timber colonialism in geographies ranging from Eastern Europe to settler and non-settler colonies.

Please send a 250-word abstract with a title to jim.clifford [@] and iva.lucic [@] by February 10.

1 Iñaki Iriarte-Goñi and María-Isabel Ayuda, “Not Only Subterranean Forests: Wood Consumption and Economic Development in Britain (1850–1938),” Ecological Economics 77 (May 1, 2012): 176–84,

Feature image: William Notman, Timber booms on the Ottawa River, c. 1872,
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Jim Clifford is an associate professor of environmental history at the University of Saskatchewan. He published West Ham and the River Lea: A Social and Environmental History of London’s Industrialized Marshland, 1839–1914 with the UBC Press in 2017.

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