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Environment and History

Rethinking the British Empire through Eco-Cultural Networks: Materialist-Cultural Environmental History, Relational Connections and Agency

James Beattie, Edward Melillo and Emily O'Gorman

Environment and History 20 (2014): 561-575. doi: 10.3197/096734014X14091313617406

In this short discussion, we use examples from the British Empire to introduce the concept of eco-cultural networks as a lens for examining interconnected, wide-ranging social and environmental processes. We present three conceptual advances that this framework offers to environmental historians: 1) a rethinking of the divisions between cultural and material approaches to environmental history; 2) an emphasis on relational connections in the making of networks; and, 3) a renewed focus on questions of agency. Each of these developments opens up new questions within environmental history and promotes engagement with work outside the field, especially with the ecological sciences and the environmental humanities.

KEYWORDS: Cultural and material environmental history, environmental historiography, environment and theory, transnational history, world environmental history, agency, networks, eco-cultural, environmental humanities, ecology, empire


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