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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Climate and Causation in African History
Author:McCann, James C.
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic term:Africa
Subjects:climate change
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/220342
Abstract:This paper looks at the role of climate as a theme within the historiography of Africa and suggests ways in which new work on African environmental historiography has come to offer a valuable comparative case for environmental history as a whole. The writing of climate history in Africa is a comparatively new phenomenon, stimulated largely by crises of drought in the 1968-1972 period in the African Sahel, Ethiopia's twin famines in the 1972-1974 and 1984-1986 periods, and again in the 1990s, and following the extended drought in southern Africa in the mid-1980s. Moreover, writing on the history of the African climate has ignored the precedents of methodology and theme in both European and North American environmental historiography. The dominant approach has been the anthropomorphic concern with establishing a direct relationship between drought and human activity, particularly as a cause of famine, migration, and demographic change. In recent years historians and climatologists have moved in more promising directions attempting to assemble evidence of climatic epochs in African history that may shed light on the historical economic trends and political events. The new African environmental history has moved away from its reductionist beginnings to put the natural world into full play alongside social and political institutions of local peoples and regional social formations. It weaves the nuances of seasonality and longer-term social adaptations to climate crises into a coherent historical fabric that both recognizes local patterns and accommodates global change in political ecology. Notes, ref.