Since the 1960s, one of the great strengths of social history has been its willingness to respond to contemporary concerns. However, as environmental issues have pushed their way to the top of the global political agenda, social historians have been slow to meet this new challenge. This paper examines reasons for this reluctance and, more importantly, explores the opportunities for integrating social and environmental history. It is divided into three main parts. The first section deals with the failure of social history to strike up a dialogue with environmental history. Section two aims to show that social and environmental history are basically compatible and complementary fields, and argues for increased collaboration by making human-environment relations a key theme for future research. Drawing on studies—both rural and urban—that have begun to establish common ground between the two fields, section three outlines new areas for investigation, including: the interconnections between social inequality and environmental degradation; environments and identities; and consumption and the environment. By focusing attention on how ordinary people interacted with their environments in the past, social historians could make a significant contribution to current discussions about a sustainable future.


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pp. 915-933
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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