Caravans: Indian Merchants on the Silk Road

More than a century ago, Russian Orientalists advanced a number of erroneous assumptions about Central Asian history that even today remain embedded within the “Silk Road” paradigm. This presentation illustrates how this received wisdom continues to shape our understanding of early modern Central Asian history, and how recent work in Indian history demonstrates the need to rethink these longstanding ideas and approach historical work on the Silk Road with a more critical perspective.

Climate Change, the Anthropocene and the Deep History of the Earth

What is the evidence for human-driven climate change in recent history, what is coming to be called the “Anthropocene”? How does this evidence compare with what we know about climate in the past, both in the more familiar epoch of human history proper, but also in prehistory, and the deep, geological history of the earth? John Brooke provides a layman’s overview, and briefly comments on the way forward for humanity.

Conflict and Climate Change from the Little Ice Age to Global Warming

Presented by Professor Dagomar Degroot of Georgetown University at The Ohio State University. In this lecture given Feb. 11, 2016, Professor Degroot surveys the cooler past to find some answers. First, he explains what we know about the "Little Ice Age," a climatic regime that lasted from 1450 to 1850, and was cooled by volcanic eruptions and low solar activity. Then, he argues that the weather of the Little Ice Age helped cause and decide wars within and between different societies. Finally, he shows why some societies were more vulnerable to the destabilizing influence of climate change than others, and offers lessons for the coming century.

Culture, the Revolution, and the Beginnings of the American Fertility Transition

Economic, demographic, and sociological studies of historical fertility transitions have tended to seek direct, quantifiable correlations between economic change and the fiscal well-being of heads of household--that is, of men. The prevailing assumption has been that men make fertility decisions and that they make these decisions based entirely on simple cost-benefit analyses. Women's perceptions and goals have been largely ignored as have cultural and political transformations.

Devouring the Earth: How British Food Changed the World

Between 1750 and 1900, the British diet underwent significant change, becoming much richer in meat, wheat, and sugar. This talk explores a series of significant consequences of this dietary transition, including the transformation of agrarian ecologies across the globe, and the accelerated, human-driven evolution of cattle, pigs, wheat and sugar. At a national scale, this recognizably “British” diet, albeit one with regional peculiarities, provided the calorie flows necessary for the domestic labor force to power the industrial revolution. While calorie levels rose on the British mainland, there were also a growing list of dietary pathologies, from constipation, food allergy, diverticulitis and tooth decay to anorexia nervosa and obesity. Our contemporary food crises--including world hunger, the diabetes epidemic and the limits of human global carrying capacity--has a much deeper history.

Disease, People, and Environment: The Plague in China

Many of the biological organisms and processes linked to the spread of infectious diseases are especially influenced by fluctuations in climate variables, notably temperature, precipitation and humidity. Evidently, in its passage from one individual to another, a pathogen is dependent on a specific mode of transmission and a particular configuration of various external factors. Temperature and humidity are crucial with respect to its reproduction, survival and infectiousness.