Publication Date

December 22, 2014

Sam Cooke’s classic R&B song aside, we know a thing or two about history, but how about biology? If those high school natural science courses have worn off, then brush up at the annual meeting, which will feature a pair of sessions on History and Biology.

To utilize the Annales School for a moment, it can be argued that few processes operate on a longer durée than evolution and a population’s relation to its environment, and papers on these two panels argue that our human histories still carry a very real aspect of natural biological processes within them. For instance, “Octopuses and Ottonians” finds remarkable similarities between the adaptive strategies of the sea creature and the 10th-century European dynasty, and “When Is a Cow Not a Cow?” shows how a static vernacular around cattle species obscured the biological and social development of differences in subsequent centuries of animal husbandry.

The sessions will also explore a group of questions about the intersections of history and science and what can be gained by this interdisciplinary collaboration. Are there certain ways of thinking about historical change that are shared by history and the life sciences? Can biology be incorporated into existing methodologies to help inform historians and generate historical arguments?

Ultimately these sessions offer a view of how history and the sciences can both benefit by working in harmony.

History and Biology: Doing History with Biology

AHA Session 197
Sunday, January 4, 2015: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Lenox Ballroom (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)

Edmund Russell, University of Kansas

History and the Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences: Toward a Model of Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Dan O’Brien, Harvard University

Rethinking Transformation and Emergence: Cattle, E. coli O157:H7, and Evolutionary History
Christopher J. Otter, Ohio State University

Octopuses and Ottonians: The Possibilities of Biological Systems Theories for Historical Inquiry
Laura Wangerin, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

History and Biology: History and Evolution

AHA Session 223
Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Bryant Suite (New York Hilton, Second Floor)

Julia Adeney Thomas, University of Notre Dame

Convergence or Coevolution? Ishikawa Chiyomatsu and the Problem of Japanese Modernization
Ian Jared Miller, Harvard University

When Is a Cow Not a Cow?
Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Implications of Epigenetic Research for the Study of History
Randolph Roth, Ohio State University

Daniel L. Smail, Harvard University

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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