The thirteen Australians who attended the European Society for Environmental History conference in Zagreb enjoyed a stimulating and diverse programme of panels and plenaries, as well as environmental history related films, meetings and tours. The hospitality provided by the host institutions, the University of Zagreb and University of Zadar, provided a congenial environment in which to renew existing acquaintances, and forge new ones.

Plenary roundtable: Trespassing. Environmental history and the challenges of migrations

Migration in environmental history featured in both the opening keynote and a plenary roundtable. The former challenged environmental historians to engage to a greater extent with critical race theory, while the latter asked what environmental history can bring to conventional migration histories by focusing on more-than-human and more-than-national movements. A lively roundtable on energy history highlighted the invisibility of energy regimes and argued for a more embodied focus, including the importance of the particular, local, and families in energy transitions. Several sessions explored human-animal histories from a range of angles, including conflicts, communities, ecologies and emotions. A series of panels on ‘Ecotopias’ illuminated past strands of green utopianism, from the fin de siècle French green anarchist Naturiens to the bioregional eco-anarchists of the late twentieth century USA. Panels on regional enviromental histories raised critical questions of scale, locality and relationality within global systems. Watery histories – of oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and the infrastructures by which water is controlled and commodified – were strongly represented, reflecting the healthy state of marine environmental history, as well as the significance of water in bringing environmental history together with histories of technology, engineering and cities. Waste, war, climate and forests were other popular themes. Across the programme approaches were diverse, ranging from the literary and interdisciplinary environmental humanities, through economic and political to spatial and ecological historical questions and methods.

Mural in Zagreb old city, by Etien.

Of the 444 conference delegates, the largest national contingent was from the USA (76) followed by Germany (64). In total 42 countries were represented, the majority European, though papers were also presented by scholars from China, India, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, Columbia and Japan, as well as Australia.

At the general meeting of ESEH, Péter Szabó (Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences) was elected President. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science) and Borna Fuerst- Bjeliš (University of Zagreb) were elected Vice-Presidents, and Giacomo Parrinello (Sciences Po Paris) was elected Secretary. We all look forward to the next ESEH, which will be held in late August 2019 in Tallinn, Estonia.

Andrea Gaynor
ESEH Regional Representative for Australasia

Image: ESEH farewell party at the Croatian National Archives (courtesy of Isabelle Charron)