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Department of Geography

 

Research seminars

Research seminars

Jump to: Main Departmental seminars | Cultural and Historical Geography | Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure | Conservation | Environmental Systems and Processes | Political ecology | Polar physical science | Circumpolar History and Public Policy (CHiPP) | Gender | Quaternary Discussion Group (QDG) | Cambridge Volcanology | Cambridge Cultural and Historical Geography | Biogeography and Biogeomorphology | Graduate Workshops in Economic and Social History | Other talks | Reading groups

Directions to the Department are available.

Main Departmental seminar series

Main Departmental seminar series at the Department of Geography.

View the archive of previous seminars.

# Thursday 19th October 2017, 3.30pm - Professor Christine Lane and Professor Ulf Büntgen, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Under the Physical Geography Parasol: Climate and History
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Professor Christine Lane: Timing is everything. Using tephra to explore past climate and environmental change.

Understanding the spatial and temporal variability of climate forcing as well as human and palaeoenvironmental responses to change, relies upon comparison of data from widespread terrestrial, glacial and marine archives. Building accurate, precise and independent chronologies for palaeoclimate, palaeoenvironmental and archaeological records is essential; however this remains a major challenge in many environments and often prevents the valid comparison of detailed palaeo-proxy records. In the Cambridge Tephra Lab we are using far-travelled volcanic ash tie-lines to tackle these issues and to address interdisciplinary research questions. This talk will focus on on-going investigations into the presence of visible and non-visible (crypto-) tephra layers within lacustrine palaeoenvironmental records of the last ~150 ka BP from across East Africa. With this approach we are revealing the potential to (i) precisely correlate, and therefore robustly compare, palaeoclimate archives from across and beyond tropical Africa within a regional tephrostratigraphic framework; (ii) provide chronologies for individual lake sediment palaeoclimate records, in particular beyond the limits of radiocarbon dating; (iii) increase our knowledge of the history of Late Quaternary explosive volcanism in East Africa; and (iv) explore the environmental impacts of major volcanic eruptions, which are believed to have had global climate effects.

Professor Ulf Büntgen: A tree-ring perspective on climate and history.

In this talk, I will focus on novel tree ring-based, proxy evidence of the European Alps and the Russian Altai-Sayan Mountains in Inner Eurasia. While stressing data-inherent and methodological-induced limitations of the existing high-resolution, summer temperature reconstructions, I will emphasize their spatiotemporal coherency and ability to link past climate variability with human history. Large-scale peopolitical and socio-cultural transformations during the Late Antique Little Ice Age between 536 and ~660 CE (LALIA), the sudden withdrawal of the Mongols from the Hungarian Plain in 1242 CE, and the unprecedented rate and magnitude of dispersal and virulence of the Black Death from 1347 CE onwards, will be used as key examples of how climatic and environmental changes have, directly and/or indirectly, affected historical societies. Finally, I will prioritize future, interdisciplinary research avenues towards a better understanding of natural climate variations and its forcing agents, as well as the associated ecosystem responses and societal consequences throughout much of the late Holocene.

# Thursday 2nd November 2017, 4.15pm - Dr Anja Schmidt, Department of Geography and Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
Assessing the climatic and environmental effects of volcanic eruptions
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Abstract not available

# Thursday 16th November 2017, 4.15pm - Professor Joe Smith, Department of Geography, The Open University
Culture and Climate Change: experiments in collaboration and engagement
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Abstract not available

# Thursday 23rd November 2017, 4.15pm - Dr Richard Streeter, School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews
Measuring landscape resilience: tephra, soil and spatial patterns
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

A key challenge this paper addresses is understanding how and when landscapes are likely to become degraded. The concept of ecological ‘resilience’ and the related idea that there are generic ‘early warning signals’ prior to changes in state have created the possibility that we might be able to quantify the vulnerability of systems to change. This paper highlights the possibilities for both using both tephra layers (layers of volcanic ash) and the analysis of spatial patterns of erosion as approaches to understanding the resilience of landscapes, past and present. When tephra falls onto vegetated surface its thickness reflects aspects of the vegetation structure at the time. These variations in tephra thickness preserve information that can be used to assess the resilience of the land surface at the time of the eruption. This approach could be used to assess land surface resilience in the past. Using UAV imagery we can quickly and easily capture high-resolution images from currently eroding landscapes. These images are used to generate metrics such as patch-size distributions, which can be used to assess present landscape resilience. This paper will review these approaches and report on findings from fieldwork in the sub-arctic landscapes of Iceland.

# Thursday 30th November 2017, 4.15pm - Professor Richard Sennett, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics
Building and Dwelling
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Abstract not available

# Thursday 8th February 2018, 4.15pm - Professor Cheryl McEwan, Geography Department, Durham University
Protean geographies: Navigating between postcolonialism and decoloniality from South Africa
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Abstract not available

# Thursday 1st March 2018, 4.15pm - Professor Mike Hulme, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
What sort of challenge is climate change? Fifty years of editorialising in ‘Nature’ and ‘Science’
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Abstract not available

# Thursday 8th March 2018, 4.15pm - Dr Walter Immerzeel, Faculty of Geosciences, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
Recent advances in understanding climate, glacier and river dynamics in high mountain Asia
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Abstract not available

Seminars in Cultural and Historical Geography

All seminars begin at 1pm and take place in the Hardy Building, Room 101 (unless otherwise stated), Department of Geography. All welcome!

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure - seminar series

Research seminar series run by the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure.
The support of the Trevelyan Fund (Faculty of History) is gratefully acknowledged.

Sandwiches and fruit will be available from 12.45pm.

Convenors: Leigh Shaw-Taylor (lmws2@cam.ac.uk), Romola Davenport (rjd23@cam.ac.uk) and Alice Reid (alice.reid@geog.cam.ac.uk).

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Cambridge Conservation Seminars

The series is intended to provide a research and social focus for university lecturers, research staff and postgraduate students interested in conservation research. The primary aim is to inform university colleagues of what research is going on in different departments and to bring in high quality outside speakers. Equally, members of conservation organisations are welcome to attend. A key element is the opportunity after each talk to socialise with colleagues from different departments and organisations.

Generously funded by the CCI Strategic Initiative Fund
http://www.conservation.cam.ac.uk/

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Climate and Environmental Dynamics - Department of Geography

Seminars within the Climate and Environmental Dynamics research group of the Department of Geography.

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Polar Physical Sciences

Quaternary Discussion Group (QDG)

A series of 50 minute lectures, followed by discussion, on the broad topic of environmental evolution, climate, ecological and human change during the Quaternary (the last ~2.6 million years). The lectures are aimed at a broad audience (including geoscientists, glaciologists, environmental scientists, atmospheric chemists, biologists, anthropologists and archaeologists).

Seminars are usually held on Thursdays starting at 17:30 in Clare College in the Thirkill Room (far left corner of first court) or the Latimer Room (on the left in the first court).

Wine is usually served after the talks and there is time for discussion over drinks and/or dinner after the seminar, which should last approximately 1 hour. The meetings are currently organised by Rachael Rhodes (rhr34@cam.ac.uk; Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research, Department of Earth Sciences), and Della Murton (dkf20@cam.ac.uk; Department of Zoology). Please feel free to contact the organisers with queries and suggestions.

A map showing the position of Clare College is available at http://www.clare.cam.ac.uk/Maps-and-Directions/

Please remember to check regularly for updates.

View the archive of previous seminars.

# Thursday 19th October 2017, 5.30pm - Michael Sigl, Paul Scherrer Institut & Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern
Volcanic eruptions, climate and humans: How lessons from the past can help us to prepare for the future
Venue: Latimer Room (Old Court), Clare College, Trinity Lane

Large volcanic eruptions are a major driver of natural climate variability responsible for numerous cooling extremes and throughout human history have often been followed by severe famines and pandemics. Spanning from the last glacial maximum into the future, I present case studies of how volcanic eruptions can impact our climate with implications for human societies in past, present and future. From pre-anthropogenic ozone depletion to “failures” of the critical Nile summer flood causing famines in Ancient Egypt, I track the influence of volcanic eruptions on climate and human societies and demonstrate that the significance of volcanic eruptions goes beyond a short-lived reduction of surface temperatures (e.g., “Year without a Summer”).

# Thursday 2nd November 2017, 5.30pm - Francis Wenban-Smith, University of Southampton
MIS 7, The "Ebbsfleet Interglacial": sub-stage structure and recognition in the UK record
Venue: Latimer Room (Old Court), Clare College, Trinity Lane

More than 20 UK Quaternary sites are reliably related to MIS 7 of the global marine isotope stage framework. This interglacial has a distinctive O18:O16 profile of an early warm peak (MIS 7e) followed by a well-defined cooler episode (MIS 7d), which is followed in turn by a double warm peak (MIS 7c and MIS 7a) divided by a minor cool episode (MIS 7b). Foremost among UK MIS 7 sites is the Ebbsfleet Valley, a
minor tributary on the south side of the Thames estuary. Here, approximately half a dozen separate localities have provided evidence of sequences from MIS 7, ranging from localities first investigated in the 1930s to currently-unpublished localities investigated as part of the HS1 archaeological programme. When the disparate palaeo-environmental, litho-stratigraphic and dating evidence from
these Ebbsfleet localities is considered as a whole, a picture emerges in which all three warm MIS 7 peaks can be recognised and distinguished from each other, and their distinctive palaeo-environmental and biostratigraphic characteristics can thus provide the framework within which other UK sites should be integrated.

# Thursday 16th November 2017, 5.30pm - Angela Gallego-Sala, University of Exeter
Climatic controls on peatland carbon accumulation during the last millennium
Venue: Latimer Room (Old Court), Clare College, Trinity Lane

Peatland ecosystems are a small but persistent sink of carbon and currently store more than 600 Pg C globally. Peatlands preserve a stratigraphic record of net carbon accumulation, the net outcome of plant respiration and respiration. The rates of both these processes will increase with warming and an important question is which of these will dominate the overall response of the global peatland carbon sink to future climatic changes. In this seminar, I will present the results of a global study of changes in peatland carbon accumulation rates over the last millennium. This study explores the relationship between carbon accumulation rates over the last millennium and modern climate space. The results indicate that there is a positive relationship between carbon accumulation and photosynthetically active radiation for mid- to high-latitude peatlands in both hemispheres, i.e. carbon accumulation is lowest at high latitudes where PAR0 is lowest. However, this relationship reverses for sites at lower latitudes, suggesting that carbon accumulation is reduced under the warmest climate regimes. This is important because it highlights that there are limits to the predicted negative feedback of the peatland carbon sink to warming. I will additionally present modelled future projections under RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 scenarios to explain that the overall peatland negative feedback does not necessarily persist in time.

# Thursday 30th November 2017, 5.30pm - Paola Moffa Sanchez, Cardiff University
North Atlantic variability and its link to European climate and history over the last 3000 years
Venue: Latimer Room (Old Court), Clare College, Trinity Lane

Abstract not available

Cambridge Volcanology

Cambridge Volcanology seminars.

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Cambridge Cultural and Historical Geography (CCHG) - Department of Geography

Seminars and public lectures within the Cambridge Cultural and Historical Geography research group of the Department of Geography.

View the archive of previous seminars.

# Thursday 5th October 2017, 5.00pm - Dr Anthony Hotson, Centre for Financial History and Darwin College
Respectable banking: the search for stability in London’s money and credit markets since 1695
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

The financial collapse of 2007–8 questioned our assumptions about the underlying basis for stability in the financial system. Anthony Hotson offers a reassessment of the development of London’s money and credit markets since the great currency crisis of 1695. He shows how this period has seen a series of intermittent financial crises interspersed with successive attempts to find ways and means of stabilizing the system. He emphasises, in particular, the importance of various principles of sound banking practice, developed in the late nineteenth century, that helped to stabilize London’s money and credit markets. He shows how these principles informed a range of market practices that limited aggressive forms of funding, and discouraged speculative lending. A tendency to downplay the importance of these regulatory practices encouraged a degree of complacency about their removal, with consequences right through to the present day.

# Thursday 12th October 2017, 5.00pm - Dr Phil Slavin, University of Kent
The Great European Famine of 1315-7 revisited: nature, institutions and demography
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

This paper, largely based on my forthcoming book ‘Communities of Famine’ looks at what could have been the single harshest subsistence crisis in European history: the Great European Famine of 1315-7. The discussion is linked to a larger scholarly controversy regarding the causes and nature of famine as historical phenomena. Some scholars consider famines as exogenous disasters, caused by natural forces; another school of thought sees famine as an anthropogenic catastrophe, brought about by purely institutional factors; finally, some historians blame the so-called ‘Malthusian trap’ in creating famines. The present paper uses the remarkably rich documentation related to the Great Famine in England, to test all three models of famine and determine which one fits the crisis the best. As expected, there is no uniform answer and it was a combination of all three factors (referred to as ‘meta-structures’), with their complex mechanisms and derivatives, that created the Great Famine.

# Thursday 26th October 2017, 5.00pm - Dr Lluís To Figueras, Universitat de Girona
Cloth consumption and commercialisation in the Western Mediterranean before the Black Death
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

During the thirteenth century a large amount of textiles made their way from the manufacturing centres of Flanders and the north of France towards the Mediterranean cities. The cloth trade has been analysed by economic historians chiefly as part of a commercial revolution led by Italian merchants. New evidence (bridal trousseaus recorded in notarial registers from thirteenth-century Catalonia) shows cloth as a key element of the commercialisation of rural society. Flanders and northern France were producing luxury textiles as well as coarse and relatively cheap woollens that were distributed through a network of local markets and retailers (drapers) specialised in selling foreign cloth along with local fabrics. Changes in the patterns of consumption related to colour and quality of fabrics triggered a social awareness on clothing as a means of social differentiation. Cloth became crucial not only as a way to single out the clergy and nobility, but also to differentiate the wealthier from the poorer peasants and artisans. Investment in garments not only explains the success of a dense marketing infrastructure across southern Europe, it also stimulated improvements in the textile production in those areas. Several small towns in the medieval Languedoc and Catalonia tried to emulate northern textile centres by welcoming foreign specialist-dyers in order to improve the quality of their products. By the beginning of the fourteenth century Mediterranean fabrics were able to compete with the woollens from northern Europe. Despite the century before the plague, being considered a period of scarcity, in some areas of southern Europe at least, peasant households purchased textiles of a variety of origins and qualities and as a consequence they made a substantial contribution to labour specialization and the development of local manufactures.

# Thursday 2nd November 2017, 5.00pm - Professor Jane Whittle, University of Exeter
The gender division of labour in Early Modern England: a new approach with new findings
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

This paper presents the main findings of a Leverhulme Trust funded research project on ‘Women’s work in rural England, 1500-1700: a new methodological approach’. The methodology used aims, as far as possible, to mimic modern time-use surveys, by collecting incidental data about the types of work activities people were engaged in from court documents. In doing so it moves away from conventional approaches to the historical division of labour, which have relied either on didactic literature or records of wage labour. It also deploys a definition of work derived from Margaret Reid’s third party criterion, as an activity that could be replaced with purchased goods or services. The project has collected information about 4300 work tasks undertaken by men and women from three types of court document (church court depositions, quarter sessions examinations and coroners’ reports) from the southwestern counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. Initial analysis shows that women dominated housework and care work, as we might expect, but their involvement in other areas of the economy was also high. Using figures that compensate for the under-recording of women’s tasks, women carried out 37% of agricultural tasks, 44% of tasks in craft production, 44% of food processing tasks, and 51% of petty commerce. Together housework and care work made up only 26% of the work tasks recorded for women. The paper will these findings, making comparisons with other similar studies of Sweden and SW Germany for the early modern period.

# Thursday 9th November 2017, 5.00pm - Professor Emma Rothschild, Centre for History and Economics
Title to be confirmed
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

Abstract not available

# Thursday 16th November 2017, 5.00pm - Dr Siân Pooley, University of Oxford
The children of the state? The social impact of welfare in modern Britain
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

This paper examines the social impact of private and public investments in the early years of people’s lives in twentieth-century Britain. We know a lot about the politics behind the creation of pioneering welfare provision since the 1880s, much of which sought to preserve and improve the lives of the nation’s young. These services included: legislation and organisations to protect children from abuse and neglect from the 1880s; infant welfare services, free school meals and medical inspections from the 1900s; and following the Second World War the payment of family allowances (from 1975 child benefit) and free healthcare. We know far less about the social impact of this care on children and their families. This on-going research examines the experiences of children and the impact of changing welfare policies in Britain since the 1880s. In seeking to place a spotlight on children’s embodied and subjective experiences, this project uses archived case files to consider not only how welfare provision was used, but also how these uses – sometimes unintentionally – contributed to sustained and cumulative inequalities. The approach taken to studying archived case files is primarily qualitative, seeking to bring together microhistorical studies of subjectivity, epidemiological approaches to the life-course, and the attention to power dynamics afforded by histories of gender and of childhood. The findings discussed in this paper focus principally on previously unexamined case files relating to children born immediately after the Second World War.

# Thursday 23rd November 2017, 5.00pm - Professor Kevin Schürer, University of Leicester
Using 'big data' to explore household and family structures in England and Wales in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

This presentation will explore the rise of ‘big data’ in historical research with specific reference to the Integrated Census Microdata database (I-CeM) covering England, Scotland and Wales for the period 1851 to 1911 and examine the potential (and problems) of such data. It will focus on a study in household and family structure for the period covered by the I-CeM data and provide examples of where ‘big data’ can add to our knowledge in comparison to more traditional localised studies – and where it can’t.

# Thursday 30th November 2017, 5.00pm - Professor Ewout Frankema, Wageningen University & Research
Why Malthus wasn’t African. Reviewing explanations and implications of low population densities in pre-1900 Sub-Saharan Africa
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

Low population densities and open land frontiers, or alternatively, the absence of Malthusian conditions, have been foundational to a range of deep explanations of long-term comparative development in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to theories of factor-biased technological change high ratios of land to labour have induced long-term patterns of economic specialisation in land and resource extensive commodities (Austin 2008). High land-labour ratios have also been argued to have shaped African labour regimes (e.g. slavery, pawning), lineage systems and household formation strategies (e.g. polygamy) (Domar 1970, Iliffe 2007, Fenske 2014). It has also been argued that scarce supplies of human labour have induced particular colonial policies with respect to labour mobilisation and commodification (Cooper 1996, Frankema and van Waijenburg 2012). In addition, land abundance and limited capacities to tax vast empty hinterlands have been pointed to as barriers to pre-colonial state centralisation (Young 1994, Herbst 2000).
Very few scholars, however, have made attempts to trace back demographic developments into the distant past (see Manning 2010 for the most important exception). The dearth of quantitative evidence prevents the field from engaging in a more systematic discussion of the possible factors that may have suppressed the growth of African populations before 1900. Of course, centuries of slave trading are part of such explanations as several scholars have pointed out (Manning 2010, Inikori 2007), but they are not necessarily the dominant factor. This paper reviews the possible explanations for the comparatively slow evolution of African populations in pre-colonial times by distinguishing time-variant from time-invariant factors, and by using variation in population densities around 1950 to develop some systematic arguments. In my discussion I will pay attention to at least five factors: 1) the ecological conditions of food crop cultivation, 2) ecological conditions for the survival of domesticated and wild animals, 3) tropical disease incidence, 4) deliberate practices of population control, 5) unintended checks on population growth. I will not try to weigh these factors and rank them in order of importance. Instead, my focus will be on the question how these factors may be related in determining the long-term evolution of populations in specific areas and periods of time.

Biogeography and Biogeomorphology - Department of Geography

Seminars and public lectures within the Biogeography and Biogeomorphology research group of the Department of Geography.

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Graduate Workshops in Economic and Social History

All talks take place on Mondays at 12.30 pm in Room 5, Faculty of History, West Road.

Convenors: Alex Wakelam (amfw2) and Jacopo Sartori (js2214).

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Other talks

Talks in the Department of Geography not connected to any other seminar series.

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.