Global Environmental History: 10,000 BC to AD 2000

Global Environmental History: 10,000 BC to AD 2000

Global Environmental History: 10,000 BC to AD 2000

Global Environmental History: 10,000 BC to AD 2000


Courses which deal with environmental history have long lacked a comprehensive overview. I. G. Simmons has made a significant contribution with a book that looks at the long-term history of environment and humanity from 10,000 BC to AD 2000. This far-reaching text considers the global picture and recognises the contributions of many disciplines including the natural sciences, the social sciences, and increasingly, the humanities. As a starting point, this book takes the major phases of human technological evolution of the last 12,000 years and considers how these have affected the natural world. It then considers the response to conditions such as climate change, putting today's preoccupations into a long-term perspective. This is a book of history, not prophecy, and so makes no judgements on current anxieties. Key features:
• Includes a glossary of unfamiliar terms
• Notable in being a history and not a polemic
• Examines the interrelation of history and nature, drawing on many fields of learning
• Extensive coverage makes this ideal background reading for more specialised treatments and studies


This book completes a trio of planned works at different spatial scales: that of the country (Britain), an internal landscape type (moorlands) and now the whole globe. The timescale has been the same in all of them: the last 10,000 years. When people ask, ‘what are you writing?’, and you tell them, then the usual reaction is one of amusement, qualified by a nod in the direction of the poor old fellow’s age. They may well be right but, inspired by some other attempts at ‘big’ history, I wanted to try. As Chapter 1 shows, I want to move the writing of environmental history further in the direction of inclusiveness. I believe that the natural sciences are very important but they are not the whole story because they sit in the type of social framework analysed by the social sciences and the humanities. Hence there is reference to a wide variety of work in this volume. Beyond that, I have no methodological ambitions: I do not think that there is a ‘right’ way to write environmental histories.

Any book has to be selective: it would be impossible to mention even every outstanding example of the processes that have been chronicled, and so those included comprise both the obvious and the eccentric. Some cannot be ignored, while others result from trawls through the literature or, increasingly, a period of surfing the net. The last is influential in one particular way: I have not (as in my other books) included a plethora of numerical tables and graphs. All the information in them is always badly out of date by the time a book actually appears, and readers will find it easier to go to a website and call up the latest data. Some sites are specified, others not, but appropriate government departments, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and bodies such as the World Resources Institute, the Population Reference Bureau, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will provide necessary numbers and graphics.

Another initial point to make is that this is a book of history and not prognosis. I have tried wherever possible to end the narrative at the year 2000 though, in Chapter 5, this gets to be more or less impossible because so many trends simply carry on at the point where they have been discussed quite recently. If there is anything to be carried forward then it is the suggestion that

An Environmental History of Great Britain from 10,000 years ago to the Present, Edinburgh University Press, 2001; The Moorlands of England and Wales. An Environmental History 8000 BC–AD 2000, Edinburgh University Press, 2003.

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