The role of history in society: Examples from environmental and climate history

What is the role of history in society? This 3 ECTS course will investigate the public role of historians.


What is the role of history in society? This course will investigate the public role of historians. How can and why should a doctoral candidate in history engage the wider public? “Knowledge of our own history and culture as well as that of others can open new perspectives, give rise to new concepts and heighten our capacity for creative thinking and critical analysis, including self-criticism,” notes a recent white paper on the role of humanities in Norway. (Meld. St. 25 (2016-2017), p. 8). This course will put the claim to the test by providing an in-depth exposure to current debates about the public role of historians. In particular, we will explore, as a test case, the recent turn toward climate and environmental history to illustrate the ways in which historians have deepen our understandings current affairs, or also failed to do so. Does the call for a greener political regime require a reevaluation of the way we historians think about history? Climate change entails a deeper timeline reaching back centuries and even millennia, and it involves including the agency of non-human forces – climate, environments, and animals – in the historical trajectory. In the course we will introduce and discuss new methodologies for historians to use in order to better understand how we can include climate and the environment in our analysis of the past. Climate change has shaped human belief systems, initiated political and social processes, and reshaped the human condition economically, socially, and environmentally. How do you reconcile the timescale of the climatologists with time as it is understood by historians? Can environmental histories of climate be a bridge between “the two cultures” in academia: the natural scientists and the humanists?

Student members may audit courses or take them for credit.To achieve credits, students will be required to submit essays.


Confirmed lecturers 

Prof. Dominik Collet, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo.

Lecture: "It's the climate, stupid!"


Dr. Gregory Ferguson-Cradler, Postdoctoral Fellow - Deparment of Geography, University of Bergen

Lecture: "History and the Future of the Energy Transition"


Emil Henrik Flatø, Doctoral Research Fellow - Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, UiO.

Lecture: "Journalistic Inquiry and the Entangled Object of Environmental History"


Per Fredrik Ilsaas Pharo, Senior adviser at the Norwegian Ministry of Environment.

Lecture: "Sisyphos work? Attempting to drive change in global food and land use systems from a Norwegian Official Development Aid platform"  


Nina Kristiansen, Editor-in-chief of

Lecture: "How to communicate science to a large audience" 


Marco Armiero, Director of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Stockholm


Prof. Kjetil Fallan, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas 

Lecture: "Making it Manifest: Object Lessons from the Environmental History of Design"


Prof. Peder Anker, Associate Professor at the NYU Gallatin and Prof. II at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, UiO 


Program here 


The course have been co-funded by the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities 


Expectations and Format

In preparing for this course, the student must write an approximate 4000 word long writing sample either in the form of (a) a reflection on an existing or planned public exhibition, (b) a historically informed speech for a public event, (c) a policy memo for a government agency or international organization, (d) lay out a social media platform, outreach or phone app, (e) a piece of historically informed journalism for a newspaper Magazine (f) a web article for database such as or At the top of the writing sample the author must declare the audience which the writer seeks to engage and the imagined medium for the writing sample. Suggested length is 4000 words, but the author can write a shorter or longer text to conform to the normal style/lengthof the chosen outlet. We appreciate it if you include images if such are commonly used in the chosen format.

Optional extra-curricular activity: Students may submit draft article or a piece from your dissertation (if relevant to the theme of the course) for discussion during an add-on workshop on environmental/climate history, to be organized after lunch on the last day of the course. If you choose this option, we will recommend to your home institution that you are awarded an additional 2 ECTS points for the course.

The writing sample will be discussed during the course and each participant will serve as main commentator for one statement as will one of the presenters. We will invite relevant national and international stakeholders in the private and public sector to interact with the students and as commentators of the writing samples. After the course, the writing statement is to be revised and resubmitted. Revised statements must be resubmitted by Jan 15. 2020. The grading will be pass/fail.


Information about participation

- This is a 3-day course. It will start at 09.15 on Monday, December 16, and end at 17.00 on Wedensday, December 18. All days are planned to start at 09.15 and end at 17.00. Monday through Wednesday, the course will be held at the UiO campus, 12th floor Niels Treschows Building

- Participation in all course activities every day, including dinner on Monday (18:00) 

- Active participation in discussions of all papers and seminars is required.

- The course language is English, but essays may be written in English or in one of the Scandinavian languages. The latter may be discussed in Scandinavian.

- Credits: 3 ECTS

- Information about the syllabus and the recommended reading list will be given at a later date. 


Deadlines and Application form: 

Deadline for Applications October 20, 2019. To apply, please fill out the application form.

Students from partner institutions will have priority. After the deadline, we will accept students on a rolling basis

Deadline for the "Writing sample" is November 20, 2019.

We will be using Microsoft Teams as the Learning platform for this course. 

Revised "Writing sample" must be resubmitted by January 15, 2020. 



Questions can be sent to: 

Peder Anker, Associate Professor of History of Science, New York University. Professor II, Department of History, University of Oslo:

with a copy to

Anna Marie Skråmestø Nesheim, 



International students might receive a scholarship to cover travel and accommodation costs. Other participants must organize and pay for their own travel.

Participants from the partner institutions of the Norwegian Graduate School in History who do not live in the Oslo area will have their accommodations for Sunday through Wedensday paid for. 

There will be a lunch served every day and also a dinner for all participants on Monday. External participants without a scholarship from the Norwegian Grauate School in History must expect to pay a fee (tbd) to participate. 


Partner institutions of the Norwegian Graduate School in History are:

Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU) - Det humanistiske fakultet

Universitetet i Agder - Institutt for religion, filosofi og historie

Universitetet i Bergen - Institutt for arkeologi, historie, kultur- og religionsvitskap

Universitetet i Oslo - Institutt for arkeologi, konservering og historie, Universitetet i Oslo

Universitetet i Tromsø - Institutt for arkeologi, historie, religionsvitenskap og teologi

Nord Universitet - Fakultet for samfunnsvitenskap

Høgskulen i Volda - Samfunnsfag og historie

Handelshøyskolen BI - Institutt for rettsvitenskap og styring

Published Sep. 16, 2019 9:28 AM - Last modified Dec. 11, 2020 1:21 PM