Publication Date

November 28, 2012



In an effort to highlight the diverse range of scholarship at the upcoming annual meeting, we’re highlighting different sessions here on the blog each week.

Climate and the Atlantic World inquires into the vagaries of weather and climate as they affected human affairs in the 18th and 19th centuries. Reminders of Hurricane Katrina lie close at hand in New Orleans. Those who live in the corridor between Boston and Washington, especially those in the northern New Jersey and greater New York City area, have their own fresh memories of living with hurricanes. The human consequences of such storms vary tremendously with the storms themselves, with the degree to which homes and businesses are located in low-lying flood-prone areas, and with societal response. Less violent weather events, such as El Niños, have had their impacts too, on the Pacific shores of South America but further afield as well. Historians are hard at work disentangling the causes and consequences of freakish weather events, and of climate change more generally, while the policy world struggles to come to grips with the implications of changing climate in the 21st century.

—John R. McNeill, University Professor, Georgetown University, AHA Vice President for Research

Climate and the Atlantic World: Hurricanes, El Niño, La Niña, and Drought in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
(AHA Session 205)

Date: Saturday, January 5, 2012, 2:30 p.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Location: Conti Room (Roosevelt New Orleans)

Chair:Christof Mauch, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Comment: John R. McNeill, Georgetown University

Hurricanes in New Orleans: Perspectives on Cultural Adaptation, 1722–65
Eleonora Julia Rohland, Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities
From El Niño to the “Long La Niña”: Early Indicators of Crisis in the Atlantic World, 1730s–40s
Sherry Johnson, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society
Long Term Drought as a Forcing Element in Political Destabilization and International Migration in West Africa in the Early Nineteenth Century
Joshua Souliere, Florida International University

Session Abstract
This panel brings together scholars working on new directions in environmental history by examining the consequences of climate cycles as catalysts for historical change in varying regions of the Atlantic World. The geographic scope of the panel ranges from New Orleans, to the American South and the Caribbean, to sub-Saharan Africa; the chronological scope ranges from the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries. All three scholars examine whether climate and/or weather-generated events—hurricanes or drought—were the catalysts for permanent change within their regions. Focusing on New Orleans’ French period (1722–65), in the first paper, Eleonora Rohland argues that local environmental knowledge as well as “imported” technological knowledge were key for the French gaining a foothold in the Mississippi delta. In the second paper, Sherry Johnson situates her analysis in recent scientific studies that demonstrate a dramatic shift from an El Niño to the “long La Niña” after 1730 and hypothesizes whether case studies from the hurricane belt were representative of worldwide patterns. In our final presentation, Joshua Souliere investigates long-term drought in the early 19th century to determine its effect as a forcing element in political destabilization of the old empire (Oyo) and in subsequent international migration patterns in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Previous Session of the Week posts we’ve featured:







This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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