Two postdocs available studying peatland restoration controversies

Two postdoctoral positions are available on a new project co-led by Dr James Palmer (University of Bristol) and Dr Kärg Kama (University of Birmingham) exploring peatland restoration controversies.

An active peat mine in Valga County, Estonia. Photograph: Dr Kärg Kama.

The Carbon Futures in the Mire project draws on field research at four peat restoration sites — two in the UK and two in Estonia — to undertake the first social science investigation of the knowledge controversies entailed in ongoing efforts to remake European peatlands as carbon storage resources. The project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Using a range of qualitative methods — including walking interviews, photovoice and deliberative workshops — the project team will engage closely with local communities and stakeholders to address three key research challenges:

  1. What are the implications of carbon-based imperatives of peat restoration for pre-existing uses and experiences of peatlands — including as a fuel source, fertile soil for agriculture, local commons, clean water reservoir, biodiversity haven and palaeoecological archive?
  2. How does expert scientific knowledge about peat restoration and carbon accounting circulate across diverse socio-ecological contexts, and how does this science inform novel strategies for extracting economic value from peat-scapes?
  3. How might scientists and restoration practitioners collaborate with local communities and stakeholders to co-produce place-specific visions of what healthy peat-scapes of the future should look like and how they should be managed?

The posts are based at Birmingham and Bristol, working on Estonian and UK case-studies respectively.

Both posts are 36-months and can be found on

Informal inquiries should be directed to Dr James Palmer.

You can follow the project on twitter @peatscapes.

Parts of the text above were adapted from the Leverhulme Trust February 2023 newsletter.

Studying the Environmental Humanities: Environment and History

This is a post in our series highlighting the units that comprise the MA in Environmental Humanities, taught by members of the Centre.

Environment and History is one of the optional units on the MA Environmental Humanities, and it explores how historians have engaged with environments when telling stories about the past. It asks big, foundational questions like: what is environmental history? When and why did the field emerge? How has it changed over time? In what ways is it practiced differently in different parts of the world and by historians of different time periods?

This is a survey unit designed to introduce students to the historiography of environmental history. It’s a perfect introduction to the thriving field for those keen to explore how environment and history connect, and allows students who may have encountered EH ideas or texts to explore in more depth. We cover key debates that have driven the field forward; identify major trends and concepts; and think critically about where the scholarship might go next. The unit encourages students to connect issues encountered here with other areas of interest, in the degree and beyond. It’s a seminar-based unit, so we meet weekly to talk it all over and share ideas. For their assessment, students write an essay making a persuasive historiographical argument using evidence from secondary sources.

Bristol hosted the European Society for Environmental History conference in 2022. Image: @esehtweets on twitter 18 Oct 2022.

We spoke to the unit convenor, Dr Marianna Dudley about what she is looking forward to when teaching Environment and History:

Dr Marianna Dudley is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities

What excites you most about this unit?

Every year this unit reminds me of why I’m an environmental historian! The range of ideas, approaches and writing that environmental historians have produced never fails to get me excited about the field all over again. It also really useful to do a historiographical unit like this to lay solid intellectual foundations that students can build on, and many go on to take other environmental history units that we offer to deepen their knowledge and apply it to their own research. I love being a part of that journey.

How does this unit speak to your research?

I am currently writing a history of renewable energy in Britain, and I get to explore this topic with students in weeks where we look at Energy and Technology, and Water, as areas of really interesting scholarship. For example, energy history doesn’t have to be written with through an environmental lens, and lots isn’t. But when we factor in the current climate context, we start to explore what an environmental history approach can open up, in terms of research questions, narratives, and audience engagement.

If you were recommending one thing to read, watch, listen to or do ahead of studying this course, what would it be?

Just one?! I would read Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit, which explores how George Orwell drew solace and inspiration from his garden.

Environment and History is an optional course on our new MA in Environmental Humanities. You can find out more about the programme here.

Studying the Environmental Humanities: Introduction to Environmental Humanities

This is the first post in our series highlighting the units that comprise the MA in Environmental Humanities, taught by members of the Centre.

Introduction to Environmental Humanities is a core unit on our MA in Environmental Humanities, and it provides a way into the discipline by posing key questions that motivate research and scholarship at its cutting edge. It asks how humanities disciplines can help us to understand the complex environmental challenges that the world is facing. How has the study of literature, history, thought, and visual arts, among other areas, engaged with the environment over time? What does it mean to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to the environmental humanities?

This introductory unit addresses these questions and traces the emergence of the field of environmental humanities. It pays particular attention to perspectives from the Global South and postcolonial contexts, and explores the significance of collaborative practices, both across disciplines and with non-academic partners. The unit provides space for students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to work together to establish a shared understanding of the shape of the field, and covers a number of important approaches including ecocriticism, environmental history, and ecofeminism.

Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement is a key text on Introduction to Environmental Humanities

The unit aims to help students explain how the field of environmental humanities has developed in dialogue with a range of disciplines, and employ their knowledge to critically analyse recent developments in the field. Constructing arguments, verbally and in writing, is at the core of the unit, particularly arguments that assess the relative importance of factors shaping the past, present and the future of the environmental humanities. Students will also work collaboratively and individually to evaluate the ability of environmental humanities scholarship and methods to contribute to real-world initiatives tackling environmental challenges.

Dr Paul Merchant is Senior Lecturer in Latin American Film and Visual Culture

We spoke to the unit convenor, Dr Paul Merchant, about what he is looking forward to when teaching Introduction to Environmental Humanities:

What excites you most about this unit?

I’m really looking forward to exploring ideas, texts and artworks from a wide range of cultural contexts and academic disciplines. The environmental humanities allow (and in fact encourage) us to try out new approaches and to think creatively, and our seminars will be a space for doing just that. It’s exciting to be working in an area that is growing and changing at such pace, and we’ll be thinking not just about the history of the environmental humanities, but also about where they might go next.

How does this unit speak to your research?

My research explores how writers and artists in Chile and Peru create work that responds to socio-environmental challenges in the Pacific Ocean and coastal areas. In many of these works, indigenous perspectives are brought into contact with a scientific understanding of ecology, and with complex local histories. An interdisciplinary environmental humanities approach, of the kind we’ll explore in this unit, therefore helps me appreciate how contemporary art and literature can generate new forms of environmental knowledge and public engagement.

If you were recommending one thing to read, watch, listen to or do ahead of studying this course, what would it be?

Amitav Ghosh’s book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable argues that human culture and thought have to a large extent failed to grasp the scale of the climate crisis. It’s a provocative argument, and a great starting place for discussion. And there’s a sequel, The Nutmeg’s Curse

Introduction to Environmental Humanities is a core course on our new MA in Environmental Humanities. You can find out more about the programme here.

Studying the Environmental Humanities

The Centre for Environmental Humanities is launching a new MA Environmental Humanities this year.

We’re excited to share the work of the centre with a new cohort of postgraduate students here in Bristol. The MA programme is drawn from the research strengths of the centre, covering a broad spectrum of disciplinary approaches from within and across the humanities. By bringing together arts and humanities approaches with historical and contemporary environmental concerns, the MA provides space for students to study how human cultures and societies have related to the environment, and to explore how culture can help us respond to ecological crises.

The units that comprise the MA are taught by Centre members who are working at the cutting edge of environmental arts and humanities research. Alongside bespoke environmental humanities units, we draw together expertise from history, English, history of art, archaeology, modern languages, philosophy and innovation to consider environmental humanities in the round. You can find all the units available on the MA here.

Greta Thunberg in Bristol

The MA programme is taught in Bristol – Europe’s first ever Green Capital, and a city famous for its environmental consciousness. The university is home to us, the Centre for Environmental Humanities, and the interdisciplinary Cabot Institute for the Environment.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be speaking to colleagues in the Centre about the units they are teaching on the MA in the coming year, and what they are most excited about. So, watch this space!



North Sea Stories: Navigating the Blue Humanities in Norway

This post is re-blogged from Rebecca Tyson’s blog Norman Frontiers.


Course details.

I have just returned from a week-long intensive PhD-level course on the Blue Humanities in Stavanger, Norway and I want to write about the experience, and the ways it made me think about human interactions with water across time and space, while it is still fresh in my mind.

Rather than provide a repeat explanation of what the Blue Humanities is, above is a description of the course and of the Blue Humanities. I also won’t provide a day-by-day account of the course, and instead this blog post will explore some of the thoughts stimulated by my time in Stavanger, and the ways that the course has inspired me to chart new voyages into wider, and more contemporary, Blue Humanities literature. However, Professor Steve Mentz (St. John’s University, New York), who was one of the instructors for the first two days, has written about his own experience here, which will provide some insight into the activities (boardgames which required 2-hours of reading the rules just to set the game up, enthusiastic engagement with Norwegian sauna culture which included swims in the fjord, and of course stimulating scholarly discussions). It was a great week, personally and professionally. These are a few of my thoughts.

I arrived in Stavanger the day before the course started, and I was immediately drawn to the water’s edge where I spent the extra time exploring the eastern side of Hafrsfjord. In (possibly) the year 872 a naval battle took place in Hafrsfjord, which was first recorded by the thirteenth-century Icelandic poet, politician, and historian Snorri Sturluson in the Kings’ saga, Heimskringla. Snorri wrote:

Then the whole army met up to the north of Jaðarr and then make in to Hafrsfjǫrðr. King
Haraldr was already lying there with his army. Then a great battle begins there immediately,
it was both hard and long. But in the end it came about that King Haraldr gained the victory, and there fell King Eiríkr and King Súlki and his brother Jarl Sóti. Þórir haklangr had laid
his ship against King Haraldr’s ship. And Þórir was a great berserk. There was there a
very fierce onslaught before Þórir haklangr fell. Then the whole of his ship was cleared of men.

– Snorri Sturluson, HeimskringlaVolume 1: The Beginnings to Óláfr Tryggvason,
Trans. by Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes
(London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2011), p. 66.

This battle has been credited as the moment of the unification of Norway, when its victor, Harald Fairhair, proclaimed himself the first king of the Norwegians, unifying the numerous smaller kingdoms that had been in the region up to that point.

Sculpture of three 10m-high Viking Age swords commemorating the Battle of Hafrsfjord, on the eastern bank of Hafrsfjord. Installed in 1983.

2022 marks the 1150th anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord, and in June this year several events took place over two weeks commemorating the battle ( In May while I was on my Visiting PhD Research Fellowship at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark (see my blog post, the crew of Helge Ask, the reconstruction of Skuldelev 5, were preparing to take the ship to this anniversary event.

A maritime view of the North Sea World.

I am interested in maritime connectivity and movement in the period around the year 1000 AD, and, along with taking a seaward perspective on medieval sources, reorienting the satellite image on GoogleEarth moves the maritime geography of the North Sea world to the centre, shifting the perspective away from the land and highlighting the ways that the connections between regions and peoples may have been conceptualised in the medieval period.

The fjords of south-western Norway.

By focussing in on different regions within this maritime space, the significance of waterways becomes even more obvious, and the commemoration of the Battle of Hafrsfjord shows that the place of medieval maritime activity is embedded in the foundation narrative of the modern country of Norway. Arne Kruse has drawn attention to the importance of these Viking Age maritime routeways through the placenames found along the western seaboard of Norway (‘On Harbours and Havens: Maritime Strategies in Norway during the Viking Age’ in Viking Encounters: Proceedings of the Eighteenth Viking Congress, Denmark, August 6-12, 2017, ed. by Anne Pedersen and Søren Sindbæk (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2020), pp. 170-85), and highlights the similarities with the way islands were used and named in both western Norway and the western isles of Scotland. The Norwegian fjords clearly provided a means of connectivity with settlements along the fjords and into the interior, which may otherwise have been isolated by the difficulties in traversing the mountainous interior, especially in bad weather.

Helge Ask, the reconstruction of Skuldelev 5, being rowed in Hafrsfjord during the Rikssamlingsjubileet in June 2022.
Photo from Rikssamlingsjubileet Hafrsfjord-Nordvegen 2022 Facebook page.

This is demonstrated in another of Snorri’s accounts, when in the autumn of 1026, following another naval battle, the Battle of Helgeå, King Cnut the Great trapped King Olaf II Haraldsson of Norway and his fleet in the Baltic Sea by blocking the sound between present-day Sweden and the island of Zealand, Denmark. This action forced most of the Norwegians to travel home in the winter on foot which took a long time compared to the journey by sea, which one man in the Norwegian army accomplished as he had made an agreement with King Cnut and was permitted to sail through the blockade (Snorri Sturluson, HeimskringlaVolume 2: Óláfr Haraldsson (The Saint), Trans. by Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2014), pp. 194-96).

St. Svithun’s Cathedral, Stavanger. Currently a major restoration project is underway to get the building ready for the 900th anniversary of its foundation in 2025.

Another important North Sea story in Stavanger’s history is the foundation of the cathedral in 1125. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Swithun, a ninth-century former bishop of Winchester in southern England. In the late tenth century Swithun became the patron saint of Winchester Cathedral and his fame and importance grew from around the year 1000. In the year 1100 a man named Reinald, who most likely came to Stavanger from Winchester, started building the original cathedral and became its first bishop, dedicating his new church to Saint Swithun (and he probably brought the saint’s arm relic with him too). This saint from southern England is also remembered in a road name in central Stavanger. Michael Lapidge (The Cult of Saint Swithun (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) pp. 56-57) has explored the cult of Saint Swithun and the connections between Winchester and Stavanger, highlighting the links between the two religious communities, and other religious foundations in Norway, in the twelfth century which were facilitated through transmarine religious networks. Coincidentally, two days after I was wandering around Stavanger contemplating Saint Swithun and these medieval maritime connections between England and Norway, a new podcast from Gone Medieval was published on Saint Swithun and his cult ( A rather fortunate stroke of serendipity.

Sign for St. Svithuns gate, a street in central Stavanger.

As a medievalist and maritime historian (though, one of the many things I took away from the week spent with the inspirational Professor Ellen Arnold was that I think I relate more to the term ‘water historian’) I visit places, at home and abroad, looking for the water and how medieval people used, thought about, and interacted with the local coast/river/harbour etc and the places these connected them to. Like many medieval historians, I’m looking for the lived experience of these watery environments. One of the most tangible connections to these lived experiences is through the objects used by people in the past and then left behind. The Blue Humanities course took us out of the classroom on Wednesday to visit some of the museums in Stavanger, starting with the Maritime Museum. The Maritime Museum occupies a beautiful building on the harbour front (actually 6 buildings spread over 3 late medieval merchants’ premises and linked together in a labyrinthine series of corridors and staircases), which is the museum’s most precious asset. The water would have come right up to the buildings originally, allowing merchant vessels to unload directly into the storehouses. On the top floor a sail loft overlooks the harbour, and the floors below contained different exhibits and reconstructed rooms reflecting the harbour’s commercial activities over the last couple of centuries.

Ceiling supports in the Maritime Museum which reminded me of ship’s knees (used in boatbuilding), probably indicating that boatbuilders also worked on these late medieval buildings on Stavanger’s harbour front.

My one recurring criticism of this fascinating category of museum is that they invariably fail to show, or even do more than provide cursory acknowledgement of, any maritime history prior to the activities of the Hanseatic League in the fifteenth century or often even the Age of Sail from the seventeenth century onwards. Stavanger’s maritime museum was no different, despite a tantalising, but brief, reference to nearby Avaldsnes, which has been described by the eminent Norwegian archaeologist Dagfinn Skre as ‘a sea-kings’ manor’ (Avaldsnes- a Sea-Kings’ Manor in First-Millennium Western Scandinavia, ed. by Dagfinn Skre (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018)). To avoid this post becoming an in-depth historiographical study of the scholarship on maritime activity in south-western Norway in the Viking Age let us just leave it at I think the Stavanger Maritime Museum missed an opportunity to highlight the region’s maritime significance further back into the first millennium AD (and beyond).
However, due to the excellent links between the University of Stavanger and the Maritime Museum, the PhD group were tasked to choose exhibits within the Maritime Museum and to rewrite their object texts from our Blue Humanities perspectives which we would then present to the curator later in the week. My contribution is below, and I attempted to address several things in a single paragraph: firstly, pottery is only boring if you talk about it in a boring way; secondly, the pottery didn’t move itself across the North Sea; thirdly, the ‘medieval period’ (arguably) covers 1,000 years from 500AD-1500AD and I think museums should be specific in their dating of medieval objects.

The objects from the Maritime Museum that I chose to rewrite the text for in one of the course exercises.

In the feedback session with the curator I was very interested when she said that the Maritime Museum’s remit was to cover the maritime history of Stavanger from the Reformation onwards, and that the Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger would cover the earlier history. I had visited the Museum of Archaeology already and I knew that there wasn’t any display of this earlier maritime history, so I asked if there had ever been any meetings between the two museums regarding how each would represent the history of the town. The answer was no, there hadn’t. This exercise has given me a greater insight into some of the questions museums have to contend with about how and what stories to tell.

The Viking Voyagers Exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology.

I visited the Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger, though it wasn’t one of the suggested museums to visit, which in itself was interesting and one of several instances during the week where I felt that the Blue Humanities field is, at present, largely the contemporary Blue Humanities, and at a push the Modern Blue Humanities in a historical sense. The Museum of Archaeology currently has an exhibition called Viking Voyagers, which explores the provenance of a selection of objects and postulates how they may have found their way into Viking Age burials in Norway. The exhibition was consciously outward looking, from Norway across the North Sea to maritime neighbours in Ireland (book/horse mounts refashioned into brooches in Norway), Scotland (penannular brooches), England (jet beads), and the Netherlands (fabric used for clothing). I was particularly interested to see a gilded silver brooch from tenth-century Carolingian Francia.

Objects in a burial from Litle Eige, Eigersund, south of Stavanger on the coast of south-western Norway. Object 1 is the tenth-century Carolingian silver brooch.

Normandy in northern France was a duchy within Carolingian Francia (for simplicity’s sake I refer to all the tenth and eleventh-century Norman rulers as dukes, though see Robert Helmerichs, ‘Princeps, Comes, Dux Normannorum: Early Rollonid Designators and their Significance’, in Haskins Society Journal, 9 (1997) 57-77 for a scholarly examination of the titles used by the early Norman rulers). In the early tenth century a Scandinavian leader called Rollo was granted land between the River Epte and the sea, probably as a way to stop other viking groups repeatedly plundering the Frankish interior using the river network (see Christian Cooijmans, Monarchs and Hydrarchs: The Conceptual Development of Viking Activity across the Frankish Realm (c. 750-940) (London: Routledge, 2021) for an examination of the scale of these attacks).

Writing c. 1015 Dudo of Saint-Quentin wrote the first (and official) history of the Normans which recounted Rollo’s pagan past and his exploits around the North Sea Zone, including time spent in Denmark, England, and the Low Countries (see Benjamin Pohl, Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s Historia Normannorum: Tradition, Innovation and Memory (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2015)). Dudo’s text was developed by William of Jumièges, writing c. 1050-70, who adapted the text and made additions of his own, including the first recorded story of (Ragnar) Lothbrok and Björn Ironside (see Elisabeth van Houts, ‘Scandinavian influence in Norman literature of the eleventh century’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 6 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1983), 107-21 (pp. 113-17)).

William of Jumièges also provided an account of the exploits of Olaf, king of Norway (1015-28) and later Saint Olaf, during his youth spent raiding in Francia, where William of Jumiéges is the only non-Scandinavian source for this period in Olaf’s life. A contemporary Scandinavian source for this same account comes from Sigvatr Þorðarson, an oral poet or ‘skald’ from Iceland who composed Old Norse praise poetry at Olaf’s court from c. 1015. Both Olaf and Sigvatr have been credited with a direct connection to Rouen, the principal city in early eleventh-century Normandy, as Sigvatr says that he had been to Rouen himself in the 1020s (see Sigvatr Þorðarson, ‘Víkingararvísur’, ed. by Judith Jesch, in Diana Whaley (ed) Poetry from The Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c.1035 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), p. 532-33), and William of Jumièges states that Olaf came to Normandy at the request of Duke Richard II to provide military assistance to the duke in 1013-14 and that he was baptised in Rouen by the duke’s brother, Archbishop Robert; a significant distinction for Rouen when Olaf was canonised in Norway only one year after his death in 1030 (see Elisabeth van Houts (ed). The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni, Oxford Medieval Texts, Vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 24-27).

A model Viking longship and a relic of St. Olaf, patron saint of Norway, in Rouen Cathedral. Donated by the bishop of Oslo in 2014 to commemorate 1,000 years since St. Olaf’s baptism in Rouen Cathedral. Photo taken during my cycling trip around Normandy in February this year (see

I had all these North Sea stories in my mind while I was standing in front of the case with the silver brooch from Carolingian Francia, thinking about the literary, artistic, cultural, economic, and political connections these objects reflected, yet they are placed here without this fascinating context. All we learn from the text in the case is that it is ‘a round, gilded silver brooch with plant decoration’, and all the stories from the world in which it was made are erased. It is just an object, as if objects don’t hold meaning for either us or their original owners. I felt surprisingly sad that other visitors to this exhibition wouldn’t know these stories. I never thought of myself as a storyteller, but the course last week had a heavy literary focus and now I am looking at these North Sea narratives and I feel that they need to be woven throughout my own thesis. I need to be an historian and a storyteller, and I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

Norse kings of Dublin and the Battle of Hafrsfjord display in the Viking Voyagers exhibition.

Returning to local waters again, another interesting display in the Viking Voyagers exhibition was on the possible involvement of Norse kings of Dublin in the Battle of Hafrsfjord. This is all very conjectural, and is based on the close association with the Norse kings of Dublin to the Scandinavian world and the names ‘Laithlind’ and ‘Lochlann’ in Irish sources, which the panel suggests may be names for this part of Norway. I found it fascinating that the exhibition curator dedicated a considerable amount of space to this complex subject, which was explored in only three paragraphs of text. There is probably a PhD thesis for someone in exploring these questions so it was a bold move, and I certainly left the exhibition feeling that they had done a good job in highlighting Norway’s maritime connections to the west. Sadly, those same connections with the east and the south were, however, entirely missing. Museums are not just the custodians of objects, they also have the power to decide which stories are told.

Cover of the 60th anniversary edition of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.

I have focussed on the objects, seascapes, and sources in this exploration of my thoughts on the Blue Humanities PhD course, which reflects my training and background (and, lets be honest, also preferences) as an archaeologist and medievalist. However, on the course, only Ellen, myself, and another PhD were medievalists, with sixteen other PhDs and speakers coming from contemporary studies, or significantly more modern periods of study, which meant that during the week, I actually spent the vast majority of the time thinking about the Blue Humanities from those points of view. Yet, I felt that I gained a great deal by expanding my horizons into the literature and theoretical considerations of post-colonial, feminist, and more-than-human approaches. A discussion with a fellow PhD working on modern-day sardinella fishers in Senegal has introduced me to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and his ideas of national conscious, which I look forward to reading to broaden my perspective on the works of Dudo of Saint-Quentin and William of Jumièges. One of the set readings for the course was Barbara Watson Andaya’s ‘Seas, Oceans, and Cosmologies in Southeast Asia’ which, along with the in-class discussion with Professor Aike Rots (University of Oslo), has given me so much to think about regarding the place of spirituality along the coast of eleventh-century Normandy. I am not by any means suggesting that eleventh-century Normandy and modern Vietnam are the same, but by looking at these places, which are so far apart in time and space, in different ways to the traditional makes me ask different questions and see new answers. That is really exciting.

Abstract from Andaya’s 2017 article.

I found the Blue Humanities PhD course at the University of Stavanger to be a welcoming, stimulating, and fun experience. The other PhDs were all lovely, inspirational people who are doing such important work, I am excited to see what they do in the coming months and years. All the speakers were generous with their time and thoughts, and Ellen made us all very welcome in Stavanger and came up with a really great programme.

Thank you very much to the Centre for Environmental Humanities at the University of Bristol and to the NoRs-EH/The Greenhouse at the University of Stavanger for funding towards my attendance on this course. It is very gratefully appreciated.

Yellow boat naust, Hafrsfjord, Stavanger.

Rebecca Tyson is a PhD student in History at the University of Bristol. Rebecca’s blog Norman Frontiers can be found here.

PhD opportunity on rewilding and farming in the UK

PhD funding is available for a new research project on rewilding and farming in the UK, based in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol.

The project is funded through the University of Bristol Strategic Fund, and comprises an interdisciplinary component with two PhD scholarships available. One is in Ecology based in the School of Biological Sciences, the other (outlined below) in Human Geography based in the School of Geographical Sciences. Dr Lauren Blake will be the lead supervisor for the latter, along with a wider supervision team within Human Geography and Ecology.

Further information is available on the UoB Human Geography PhD opportunities page here and full details are available at this link. There is also a shorter version on FindaPhD to circulate, and key details below. The deadline to apply is 17th March.

Project brief: Studentship Two (human geography) will focus on the socio-cultural, political, and economic challenges and opportunities of rewilding in the UK. Working under the primary supervision of Dr Lauren Blake, this project will explore the tensions and synergies between rewilding and food production/agriculture, including considering its viability, acceptability, and trade-offs. Policy analysis may also be relevant, as well as current trends towards regenerative and agroecological farming. The research will require primarily qualitative approaches (possibly including participatory/creative methods), but some quantitative methods will also be expected (e.g. survey data). As well as empirical, the PhD project should have strong theoretical grounding. The research will require integrating results from studentship 1 (ecology) to give a holistic understanding of rewilding’s environmental and social potential and feasibility in the UK. The project will require the postgraduate researcher to cultivate their autonomy over the project’s focus and trajectory. The successful student’s particular interests, background, experience, and expertise will heavily shape both the project focus and methodology accordingly. Applicants’ experience and ideas for moulding the potential of the research should be outlined in the application proposal.

Studentship 2 requirements: The successful applicant will have a strong interest in food, farming, conservation and biodiversity, a background in human geography or cognate discipline, experience with mixed research methods including qualitative methods and analysis, and a motivation for self-learning. Applicants must hold/achieve by the start date of the project a minimum of a master’s degree (or international equivalent) in geography or related subject (e.g. sociology, anthropology), and a minimum of a 2:1 at undergraduate level (preferentially a 1st or equivalent). We especially welcome and encourage student applications from under-represented groups: we value a diverse research environment.

Application: Applicants must submit the following as part of their application: any relevant academic transcripts; an up-to-date CV; and arrange for two letters of reference (at least one must be an academic reference). A personal statement is also required, of up to 1,000 words, outlining your motivation for applying to the project, the School, your suitability for postgraduate research, and any relevant experience, skills and personal attributes you want to highlight. In addition, all applicants to Studentship Two should submit a research statement of no more than 1,300 words (excluding bibliography) outlining how you would apply your particular interest, knowledge and skills to the project on rewilding and farming in the UK. The statement should include reflection on key debates on the topic, potential theoretical and methodological approaches, specific geographies of expertise or interest, possible relevant policy, and both specific training and future ambition with respect to the project.

Scholarship details: Studentship stipend of minimum £17,668 per annum subject to eligibility and confirmation of award, plus tuition fees and £2,000 per annum per studentship towards project costs. Duration: 4 years for each studentship. Eligibility: Home/UK and international students.

Application Deadline: 17th March 2023

To discuss the position, please contact Dr Lauren Blake (lead supervisor):

New book: Ecocriticism and the Island by Pippa Marland

Announcing the publication of:

Ecocriticism and the Island: Readings from the British-Irish Archipelago – Pippa Marland (Rowman and Littlefield, December 2022).

Ecocriticism and the Island explores a wide selection of island-themed creative non-fiction, offering new insights into the ways in which authors negotiate existing cultural tropes of the island while offering their own distinctive articulations of “islandness.” This book represents an important intervention into both island literary studies and ecocriticism.


Ecocriticism and the Island is a fascinating study of the diversity and importance of literature and life across the north Atlantic archipelago. Written with clarity and insight, it is a guide to the histories of communities around Ireland and Britain and an augur of our collective future through engagement with art, language, and climate science, all brought together in a compelling critical and creative narrative. It is an important addition to the archipelagic and blue humanities and marks a good step forward in island thinking.”

Nicholas Allen, director, Wilson Center for Humanities and Arts, University of Georgia

“Drawing upon an impressive breadth of theoretical reference as well as interviews with key writers, Pippa Marland offers sensitive and illuminating close readings of a diverse range of creative non-fictional texts. The result is a brilliantly original and engagingly lucid work of ‘archipelagraphy’ that demonstrates how ecocriticism might contribute to island studies and how island-themed texts might advance ecocritical practice. Ecocriticism and the Island is essential reading for all researchers and students interested in the intersections of literature, place, and contemporary environmental thought.”

David Cooper, founding co-director of the Centre for Place Writing, Manchester Metropolitan University

“Read this book if you are drawn to the ever-more-crowded bookstore shelves of creative nonfiction about place and about living in, traversing, or mapping distinctive geographies and their communities. Ecocriticism and the Island is a meticulously researched study of island-themed books by some of the most important writers on these shelves. It is a gift to researchers seeking new approaches to island literary studies, offering thorough and utterly persuasive close readings that confirm the ultimate inseparability of actual and imagined islands. It is also a gift to researchers seeking a route between the concepts and methods of island studies and of ecocriticism, two approaches that, as Marland amply demonstrates, need each other.”

Lisa Fletcher, Head of Humanities, University of Tasmania

Pippa Marland is a Lecturer in Humanities at the University of Bristol

Job vacancy: Lecturer in Historical & Cultural Geographies

The School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol is seeking to appoint a Lecturer in Historical & Cultural Geographies.

From the job advert:

We welcome applications from across historical and cultural geographies, and are open to a plurality of methodological and conceptual approaches and perspectives, as evidenced by our current expertise in more-than-human geographies, historical geographies of emotion, environment and demography, landscape geographies and spatial theory.

We are especially interested in applications from candidates who would extend and diversify our expertise further in areas including geohumanities; cultural and historical geographies of social and environmental change; cultural and historical geographies of race, imperialism and justice.

The deadline for applications is 10 January 2023.

There are several CEH members in the School of Geographical Sciences – so please spread the word among environmental humanities colleagues!

Find the job advert here. 

PhD funding available in the School of Geographical Sciences

The School of Geographical Sciences (University of Bristol) is advertising two funded PhD scholarships, offering four years of fees and maintenance at UKRI rates. The scholarships are in human geography and are for PhD projects which align with one or more of the following areas:

  • Environment / sustainability /climate change
  • Economic, political, and social justice
  • Health and social care
  • Migration and mobilities
  • Sociodigital / data science / technology

The School has research strengths in environmental humanities, geohumanities, environmental history, decolonial geographies, landscape studies and other historical and cultural geography research areas. Several academics and current PhD students in the School are also members of the Centre for Environmental Humanities. The full faculty list for the School is here.

Applicants should contact proposed supervisors within the School prior to making a formal application to the PhD programme or for funding. All applicants must have agreed and written support from supervisors prior to applying. If you would like the CEH’s help with contacting potential supervisors for an environmental humanties or related project, please contact our communications officer.

Find the full advert here.

New book! Georgic Literature and the Environment: Working Land, Reworking Genre

Dr Sue Edney (English, Bristol) and Dr Tess Somervell (Worcester College) have just published a new book on Georgic Literature and the Environment.

From the Routledge website:

This expansive edited collection explores in depth the georgic genre and its connections to the natural world. Together, its chapters demonstrate that georgic—a genre based primarily on two classical poems about farming, Virgil’s Georgics and Hesiod’s Works and Days—has been reworked by writers throughout modern and early modern English-language literary history as a way of thinking about humans’ relationships with the environment.

The book is divided into three sections: Defining Georgic, Managing Nature and Eco-Georgic for the Anthropocene. It centres the georgic genre in the ecocritical conversation, giving it equal prominence with pastoral, elegy and lyric as an example of ‘nature writing’ that can speak to urgent environmental questions throughout literary history and up to the present day. It provides an overview of the myriad ways georgic has been reworked in order to address human relationships with the environment, through focused case studies on individual texts and authors, including James Grainger, William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Seamus Heaney, Judith Wright and Rachel Blau DuPlessis.

This is a much-needed volume for literary critics, academics and students engaged in ecocritical studies, environmental humanities and literature, addressing a significantly overlooked environmental literary genre.

“The georgic is the genre of the Anthropocene. More than pastoral, georgic means a working countryside, humans embedded with nonhumans, sustaining without exploiting. These essays pose critical ecological questions arising from centuries of writing from Hesiod and Virgil to John Clare, Derek Jarman and Isabella Tree. Now more than ever we need the georgic to think with.”

Donna Landry, Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature, University of Kent, UK

Table of contents:

Foreword by David Fairer


PART I Defining Georgic 

1. What Is Georgic’s Relation to Pastoral?

2. How Is Walden Georgic?

3. Middlemarch and the Georgic Novel

PART II Managing Nature 

4. Agrilogistics and Pest Control in Early Modern Georgic

5. James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane and Naturalists’ Georgic

6. Rural Frances Burney

7. Wordsworth’s Tidal Georgic

8. Wordsworth’s ‘Michael’ and the Imperilled Georgic: Questions of Agricultural Permanence

9. Georgic Culture in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native: Participant Observation

PART III Eco-Georgic for the Anthropocene 

10. Georgic Hope in Robert Bloomfield and John Clare

11. Seamus Heaney’s Elegiac and Domestic Georgics

12. The Semi-Georgic Australian Sugarcane Novel

13. Judith Wright and Virgil’s Third Georgic

14. Derek Jarman’s Gay Georgic

15. Georgic Reversals in Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Days and Works Afterword