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January 2011

Past Actions: Present Woes, Future Potential: Rethinking History in the Light of Anthropogenic Climate Change



Co_levene_pastactions_20100731A model university syllabus for historians and other students of the past to engage with issues of anthropogenic climate change through the medium of history and related disciplines.

Developed for the Higher Education Academy by a small team associated with the Rescue!History network.

My contribution is Unit 2: Climate change and the emergence of human history: the development of agriculture in the Old World.

The ending of the last glacial period (The Pleistocene) and the onset and stabilisation of the current inter-glacial period (The Holocene) was a major factor in precipitating profound changes in humanity’s subsistence practices. This climatic change fundamentally influenced the transition from hunting and gathering to domesticated cereal production and animal husbandry in the Near East, the Nile valley and Mesopotamia, from where it eventually spread across Europe and elsewhere.

A focus on the ways in which agriculture was both an innovative response to a changing climate and the basis for irrevocable changes in human exploitation strategies may provide a historical basis for and a key comparator to our responses to climate change – enabling students to frame key questions about optimal responses to the sustainability crisis that we currently face.


The lost children of Carthage

100_0211 Archaeological evidence suggests an alternative explanation for infant remains found in the North African city of Carthage than those presented by classcial writers, I argue in the November-December 2010 issue of Minerva. You can read the article here100_0215

Carthage was subject to virulent negative Roman propaganda, and one of the charges levelled at the Carthaginians was that they sacrifced their children to the god Baal. However, the evidence from the ancient city's 'tophet' suggests they mourned the loss of infants, deposting their remains with care and dedicating them to Baal and his female consort, Tanit.