Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Friday, February 25, 2011

Australian Climate History research project

I see from Archives Outside that: 

The Climate History research project is seeking to reconstruct Australia’s climate history from European settlement to 1900. The National Library of Australia is seeking your help for this important research project to piece together our nation’s climate history.

The current research project appears to focus on Lake George, the shallow lake near Canberra so well know to those who drive to Australia's national capital. The broader project is described this way:

This landmark project, spanning the sciences and the humanities, draws together a team of leading climate scientists, water managers and historians to better understand south-eastern Australian climate history over the past 200–500 years. It is the first study of its kind in Australia.

When I first studied history, climate and indeed to a degree geography itself was largely ignored. It was there, but almost in passing. I was probably more sensitive to this than many because I studied geography as well as history at school. I was also curious about things that seemed to be missed out. Even so, I really only became aware of the importance of geography when I first studied archaeology and Australian prehistory. Now geography including climate was central to my interest in the patterns of Aboriginal life.

I may have been aware of the importance of geography, yet I still did not properly understand either the interconnections or nuances involved. That came later.

I am not a geographical or environmental determinist in the way that some prehistorians are.  When I did geography honours at school, I was interested in the way our concepts of geography and of resources combined physical resource with our understanding of technology and our perceptions of life. To use a modern phrase, the very idea of resources was a cultural construct. However, no-one can deny (I think) that geography including climate is important.

Today as I try to pursue my interest in the history of New England over the last 50,000 years I am constantly frustrated by my own lack of knowledge of geography broadly defined, including geological and climatic history. I am also frustrated by the degree of difficulty in finding the information I need.

It has taken concerns with climate change to make the history of climate important.

I do not have the personal time to participate in the research project. However, from a purely selfish perspective, I am very glad that it's there.      

2 comments:

nellibell49 said...

The INTERNET ARCHIVE has some interesting books online including some on the Climate of NSW.
http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=new%20south%20wales%20AND%20mediatype:texts

Jim Belshaw said...

Lynne, you are a trove in your own right. I will follow up!