Call for Papers – Environmental History Challenging the Mediterranean (16th to 21st Centuries)

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Environmental History Challenging the Mediterranean (16th to 21st Centuries)

27 – 28 March 2025 – University Côte d’Azur – Nice, France

Proposal Deadline – 30 September 2024

Call for Proposals for the International Conference, organised at the University Côte d’Azur, 27-28th March 2025, by Léonie Boissière and Simon Dolet.

In June 2025, France will host the Third United Nations Conference on the Oceans in Nice, with some 120 heads of state and government, but above all hundreds of specialists and institutional and non-institutional players. This time of debate and sharing on the future of the oceans is an opportunity for the discipline of history to take up these issues. The focus of this international conference is the Mediterranean, not just the sea but the Mediterranean world as a whole. Mediterranean studies have been intrinsically linked to the ‘milieu’ since the pioneering work of Fernand Braudel (Braudel, 1949). Today, environmental history no longer looks solely at the Braudelian milieu, but at all the interactions of human and non-human actors with the environment. The aim of this conference is therefore to take a fresh look at the Mediterranean through the lens of environmental history. In other words, how does this field of history enable us to reconsider the spectrum of Mediterranean studies, from economic and maritime history to political history, via cultural and social history? To what extent does this area have its own specific dynamics? How do Mediterranean societies adapt to external models? How are practices specific to certain Mediterranean regions integrated into other areas, whether Mediterranean or not?

Over the last twenty years, the history of the Mediterranean has undergone a number of changes (Cahiers de la Méditerranée, 2021), even to the point of questioning the very relevance of this historical object (Moatti, 2020). However, an environmental perspective is justified by the relative unity of the climate, the famous Mediterranean triad, the landscapes of terraces and lagoons, between land and sea, not forgetting a certain diversity, such as the deserts of the southern shore (Fouache, 2003). This stimulating approach has already fed into historical reflections, for example in the research programme ‘Les sociétés méditerranées face au risque’ (2002-2007) (Chastagnaret, 2009; Cousin, 2011; Velud, 2012; Chastagnaret et als, 2013), or the current ‘Gouverner les îles’ (2022-2026). Considering this question from the modern and contemporary eras seems appropriate, since there are ruptures, such as climate change (Revue géographique des pays méditerranéens, 2022), but continuities prevail, such as the exploitation of resources (Rousselle, 1997).

All the new research in environmental history questioning the singularity of the Mediterranean will therefore be examined here, discussing its unity and diversity, within the framework of case studies from the northern and southern shores, and from the sea itself. It will also be necessary to determine whether the dynamics are the same between these two shores, before, after and during colonisation (Davis, 2013; Histoire Politique, 2022). The conference will focus on a number of themes, without aiming to be exhaustive or neglecting their cross-cutting nature:

1. Natural Resources

The question of food resources is a cornerstone of environmental history. The specificity of the Mediterranean stems obviously from the Mediterranean triad, not forgetting other cereals, livestock farming, but also the exploitation of fisheries resources (Faget, 2017 and 2022; Rivoal, 2022), or even coral (Rives méditerranéennes, 2018). However, Mediterranean biodiversity remains in flux: waves of botanical acclimatisation, particularly in gardens (Blais, 2023), were aimed at improving agricultural production. To increase and optimise these activities, societies had to control water. Many marshes around the Mediterranean were drained (Lemeunier, 2004). Irrigation also raised questions about the regular conflicts over use of the ‘commons’ (Gasparini, 2012). Energy resources and the transition from old energy sources to fossil fuels also need to be studied.

2. A Saturated and Polluted Environment

This over-exploitation of resources led to an intensification of pollution, starting in modern times and intensifying in the industrial age (Chastagneret, 2017; Daumalin and Laffont-Schwob, 2016; Rives méditerranéennes, 2020). Particular attention needs to be paid to marine pollution. The birth and development of conservation and protection policies need to be examined (Marcel, 2013), while considering individual and collective resilience.

3. Urban Planning

Development has many echoes in the previous sections (irrigation, industry, oil and gas fields, etc.). This approach focuses on the urbanisation of the Mediterranean area and its relationship with the environment, with particular attention to ports. For example, a road bypass was organised within – or even above – the city of Nice to preserve the ‘natural’ appearance of the Promenade des Anglais and the sea (Bodinier, 2024).

4. Tourism

There is no doubt that tourism – a constituent element of the Mediterranean since the eighteenth century (Corbin, 1988) – accelerated development both on the coast and in the mountains, and more generally transforming all human relationships with the Mediterranean area and its environment.

5. Societies Faced with Nature: Risk, Disaster, Resilience, Management

A risk and disaster approach also provides a new perspective on maritime and commercial history through the study of shipwrecks (Tavenne, Devilliers, 2022). The recent meteorological news of storm Alex is also a reminder of the risks posed by Mediterranean torrents (Sud-Ouest européen, 2011), not forgetting the risk of flooding (Chastagnaret et al., 2006), earthquakes and forest fires (Chalvet, 2005). Diseases and epidemics also punctuated the history of the Mediterranean, such as malaria, the plague and cholera. Societies responded individually and collectively: for example, until the 18th century, in the Catholic Mediterranean, the population sought divine intercession through processions during periods when it was too dry or too wet (Barriendos, 2010); scientists considered man-made climate change and contributed their expertise during the Enlightenment (Casti Moreschi, 1989); from the 19th century onwards, specialised state institutions gradually took charge of risk management, more recently in dialogue with citizens’ associations.

All these issues need to be considered in the light of the global changes of the Anthropocene, with their consequences for human societies, flora and fauna.


Proposals in French or English, the languages of this international conference, should be between 1 and 3,000 characters in length and accompanied by a bio-biographical presentation. They should be sent before 30 September 2024 by email to and

This international conference will be published.

Scientific Committee

Xavier Huetz de Lemps (Université Côte d’Azur)

Lavinia Maddaluno (Università Ca’Foscari)

Charles-Francois Mathis (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Alexis Metzger (École Nationale de la Nature et du Paysage)

Émilie-Anne Pépy (Université Savoie Mont Blanc)

Jan Synowiecki (Université de Caen Normandie)


Barriendos Mariano. « Les variations climatiques dans la péninsule ibérique : l’indicateur des processions (XVIe-XIXe siècle) », Revue d’histoire moderne & contemporaine, 57/3 (2010), p. 131-159.

Blais Hélène, L’empire de la nature : une histoire des jardins botaniques coloniaux (fin XVIIIe siècle-années 1930), Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 2023.

Bodinier Stephen, « Le rôle de Pierre Mathis dans la conception de la voie rapide de Nice (1940-1962) », dans Nice : temps, espace et société. Quand la recherche parle de sa ville, Giovanni Fusco et Xavier Huetz de Lemps (dir.), Nice, Serre, 2024, p. 61-74.

Braudel Fernand, La Méditerranée et le Monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II, volume 1, Paris, Armand Colin, 1949.

Cahiers de la Méditerranée, numéro thématique « Écrire la Méditerranée. Perspectives historiographiques », 103 (2021).

Casti Moreschi Emanuela, « Criteri della politica idraulica veneziani nella sistemazione delle aree forestali (XVI-XVIII sec.) », dans L’uomo e il fiume. Le aste fluviali e l’uomo nei paesi del Mediterraneo e del Mar Nero, Romain H. Rainero, Eugenia Bevilacqua et Sante Violante (dir.), Settimo Milanese, Marzorati, 1989, p. 17-24.

Chalvet Martine, « Les stratégies des élites provençales dans la construction de la forêt méditerranéenne », dans Construire des mondes. Élites et espaces en Méditerranée (XVIe-XXe siècle), Paul Aubert, Gérard Chastagnaret et Olivier Raveux (dir.), Aix-en-Provence, Presses universitaires de Provence, 2005, p. 15-31.

Chastagnaret Gérard (dir.), Les sociétés méditerranéennes face au risque. Disciplines, temps, espaces, Le Caire, Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2009.

Chastagnaret Gérard, De fumées et de sang. Pollution minière et massacre de masse, Andalousie, XIXe siècle, Madrid, Casa de Velázquez, 2017.

Chastagnaret Gérard, Gil Olcina Antonio, Alberola Romá Armando, Riesgo de inundaciones en el Mediterráneo occidental, Madrid, Casa de Velázquez, 2006.

Chastagnaret Gérard, Marin Brigitte, Raveux Olivier, Travaglini Carlo (dir.), Les sociétés méditerranéennes face au risque. Economie, Le Caire, Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2013.

Corbin Alain, Le territoire du vide : l’Occident et le désir du rivage, 1750-1840, Paris, Aubier, 1988.

Cousin Bernard (dir.), Les sociétés méditerranéennes face au risque. Représentations, Le Caire, Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2011.

Daumalin Xavier, Laffont-Schwob Isabelle (dir.), Les Calanques industrielles de Marseille et leurs pollutions. Une histoire au présent, Aix-en-Provence, REF.2C éditions, 2016.

Davis Diana K., Les mythes environnementaux de la colonisation française au Maghreb, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 2013.

Faget Daniel, « L’histoire environnementale, nouveau chantier de l’histoire des pêches en Europe méridionale ? », dans Écrire l’histoire environnementale au XXIe siècle : Sources, méthodes, pratiques, Stéphane Frioux et Renaud Bécot (dir.), Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2022, p. 77-92.

Faget Daniel, L’écaille et le banc. Ressources de la mer dans la Méditerranée moderne (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle), Aix-en-Provence, Presses universitaires de Provence, 2017.

Fouache Eric (dir.), The Mediterranean world environment and history, Paris, Elsevier, 2003.

Gasparini Danilo, « Acque patrizie entre terre et eau, Venise à l’Époque moderne », dans Eaux et conflits dans l’Europe médiévale et moderne, Patrick Fournier et Sandrine Lavaud (dir.), Toulouse, Presses universitaires du Midi, 2012, p. 87-106.

Histoire Politique, numéro thématique « Ressources naturelles et tensions d’empire : Maghreb, Proche-Orient, Afrique (XIXe-XXe siècle) » sous la direction de Guillaume Blanc, Antonin Plarier et Iris Seri-Hersch, 48 (2022).

Lemeunier Guy, « Drainage et croissance agricole dans l’Espagne Méditerranéenne (1500-1800) », dans Eau et développement dans l’Europe moderne, Salvatore Ciriacono (dir.), Paris, Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2004, p. 49-68.

Marcel Odile, Littoral : Les aventures du Conservatoire du littoral (1975-2013), Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 2013.

Moatti Claudia, La Méditerranée introuvable : relectures et propositions, Paris, Éditions Karthala, 2020.

Revue géographique des pays méditerranéens, numéro thématique « Le petit âge de glace en Méditerranée » sous la direction de Jean-Michel Carozza, Benoît Devillers, Christophe Morhange et Nick Marriner, 48 (2022).

Rives méditerranéennes, numéro thématique « Autour du corail rouge de Méditerranée. Hommes, savoirs et pratiques de la fin du Moyen Âge à nos jours » sous la direction de Luca Lo Basso et Oliver Raveux, 57 (2018).

Rives méditerranéennes, numéro thématique « Fos – Étang de Berre. Un littoral au cœur des enjeux environnementaux » sous la direction de Christelle Gramaglia et Matthieu Duperrex, 61 (2020).

Rivoal Solène, Les marchés de la mer. Une histoire sociale et environnementale de Venise au XVIIIe siècle, Rome, École française de Rome, 2022.

Rousselle Aline, La glace et ses usages, Perpignan, Presses universitaires de Perpignan, 1997.

Sud-Ouest européen. Revue géographie des Pyrénées et du Sud-Ouest, numéro thématique « Aléas, vulnérabilités et adaptations des sociétés du passé » sous la direction de Jean-Marc Antoine et Jean-Michel Carozza, 32 (2011).

Tavenne Léa, Devilliers Benoît, « La dimension multiscalaire des risques littoraux : l’exemple des naufrages dans le golfe du Lion, XVIIIe-XIXe siècles », Bulletin de l’association de géographes français, 98/3-4 (2022), p. 385-401.

Velud Christian (dir.), Les sociétés méditerranéennes face au risque. Espaces et frontières, Le Caire, Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2012.

Feature Image: “Sunbathing on the Mediterranean” by Trey Ratcliff is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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