Seminar: ‘Mining and Environmental Change in African History’, 3 November 2017

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Photo by Norman Kenward – Independent Photographer. Reproduced with kind permission of

Friday 3 November 2017

Time: 2pm-5.45pm (with tea/coffee from 1.45pm)

Venue: Colin Matthew Room, History Faculty, Oxford

‘Mining and environmental change in African history’ is the third research seminar of the ERC project ‘Comparing the Copperbelt’ based at the University of Oxford. It focuses on the intersection between mining and environmental history in twentieth-century urban Central and Eastern Africa. The mining industry moves tonnes of earth, which profoundly impacts on and transforms the landscape, soils, vegetation and water courses in the vicinity of industrial areas. Nonetheless, the linkages between mining and environmental change have only recently started to be explored in depth. This event brings together experts from history, geography and social sciences to present interdisciplinary approaches to advance debates on environmental history and mining in Africa.

This seminar asserts that an environmental analysis of mining is essential to understand urban industrial society in Africa. Mining reworks local topographies, land use and vegetation patterns and it introduces new structures and meanings to the environment. This seminar will explore environmental history and mining in its broadest sense, by looking at large-scale as well as artisanal mining, the impact of mining on patterns of urbanisation, mining waste and pollution, but also issues of forestry, agriculture and hydrology. Questions to be addressed include: How did colonial power relations influence environmental change on the Central African Copperbelt? To what extent has artisanal gold mining in Tanzania given rise to distinct forms of urbanisation? What can a study of trees, sand and crops reveal about the relationship between the copper mining industry and its environment? Which insights can political ecology contribute to the study of resource extraction? Collectively, the speakers will contribute innovative approaches to the study of mining and environmental change in African history.

Gavin Bridge (Durham), ‘To the Ends of the Earth: extraction as a political ecology of capital circulation’
Corey Ross (Birmingham), ‘Ecology, Exchange, and the Multiple Frontiers of Colonial Africa’s Copperbelt’
Iva Peša (Oxford), ‘Tailings, trees and crops: An environmental history of the Central African Copperbelt’
Deborah Bryceson (Edinburgh), ‘Artisanal Gold Rushes and Small Towns in Tanzania, 1980-2002: Dynamics of Urban Agglomeration and Economic Diversification’

William Beinart (Oxford) and Miles Larmer (Oxford)

Held in conjunction with the Global and Imperial History Research Seminar

Download poster: Mining and Environmental Change in African History poster

Download programme: Programme ‘Mining and Environmental Change’ 3 Nov 2017