“War and the Environment: Contexts and Consequences of Military Destruction in the Modern Age” Conference at the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC May 6-9, 2004
Conveners: Charles Closmann (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC) Christof Mauch (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC)
Wars have had major impacts on urban and natural environments. As a consequence of military campaigns and destruction, landscapes and cityscapes have been transformed, oceans and air have been polluted. At the same time, environmental factors, such as climate and the availability of resources, have influenced military strategies and the conduct of war. Some wars have been fought in order to gain access to natural resources. Others have been compared with natural events. Our conference invites historians and social scientists to explore the nexus of environment and war from multiple perspectives. It seeks to bring together historians of culture, environment, technology, economics, etc. whose work deals with war, particularly since the onset of industrialization, anywhere in the world. We invite proposals addressing some of the following topics and questions:
o What immediate and long-term environmental consequences have wars and the use of modern destructive weapons had on nature (land, air, sea) and natural resource policies? In what ways have such factors as nuclear radiation, pollution, toxification, and military installations (landmines, etc.) contributed to the transformation of landscapes? How have they influenced agriculture and transportation?
o To what extent and in what ways have sites and installations of war (battlefields, fortifications, etc.) influenced the environmental and cultural alteration of landscapes?
o How has war affected urban environments (water supplies,transportation systems, etc.) cityscapes, and patterns of settlement? What lessons did urban planners learn from wars, and how did they apply their experience in postwar reconstruction? To what extent did they take the prevention of future environmental damage into consideration?
o What types of environmental damage have military planners taken into account? How have the public and media reacted? To what extent has the growing awareness of environmental damage led to new legal regulations and military concepts in the course of the 20th century?
o What consequences have resulted from the storage of hazardous wastes at military sites? How have legal systems evolved to remediate toxic waste sites and compensate nearby residents–or soldiers–exposed to such materials? What military and legal discourses, and what policies have evolved in regard to burning oil wells, oil spills, and similar environmental disasters?
o What are the connections between war, science, and the environment? How has this complex relationship evolved over time?
o How has nature (or, for that matter, the social and cultural constructions of nature) been used to justify military aggression, conquest, and resistance? What role have comparisons between war and nature, or natural and military disasters, etc. played in politics and ideology? In turn, what military terms and strategies have been applied in environmental campaigns, for instance against ocean flooding, the “bio-invasion” of non-native species, etc.?
Proposals that deal with a variety of these issues, and papers that focus on comparisons(over time or between different wars) are especially welcome. However, we shall also accept case studies that address broader analytical questions about the relationship between war and the environment. Successful applicants will be invited to present their work at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC.
Applications must be received by January 15, 2004. They should include a proposal not longer than 500 words and brief CV. Please send applications to: [email protected] or send a fax to the German Historical Institute (202)- 483- 3430.