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Ripples, Leaks and Flows in Water Histories, 1400-1900

June 28, 2018
Institute of Humanities, Northumbria University

Ellison Place
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST
United Kingdom

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Drawing together half a millennium of human interactions with water, this one-day environmental history symposium seeks to deepen our understanding of how and why people adapted and readapted the framework through which water flowed, and indeed was permitted to flow, through their landscapes, settlements, homes, businesses and bodies. Water’s ubiquity and critical importance throughout history is incontrovertible, but the crucial, active and dynamic role it played as it underpinned every aspect of human life, and that of non-human species too, is given disproportionately scanty attention in many sub-disciplines of history. Situated within the exceptional field of environmental history, this symposium has been designed to create a forum in which water historians can reflect on how their research challenges traditional chronological boundaries, milestones and turning points. We also want to raise the profile of water history’s largely unrealised transdisciplinary potential by facilitating and encouraging interdisciplinary discussion between our respective papers and between our work and the growing body of water research conducted by sociologists, geographers, eco-critics and those working on environmental philosophy.

We welcome all water history papers, but we are especially keen to include papers which speak to the following themes:

  • Reflexivity about space and time as categories;
  • Conceptions of stewardship and conservatorship of water and waterscapes;
  • Water’s local specificity;
  • The perceived differences between different waters; 
  • Governance, regulation and law;
  • Water as business;
  • Water in industry, science and technology;
  • Health, medicine and sanitation;
  • Non-human species’ interaction with water and waterscapes;
  • Waste-disposal, wastewater and pollutants.

The symposium will be concluded by our keynote speaker, Dr Briony McDonagh (University of Hull). In addition to her own keynote paper, Briony will comment briefly on the papers as a cohesive body of work. Subsequently, the symposium organisers, Dr Leona Skelton and Dr John Morgan, will work with contributors to develop a co-edited collection.

Please send abstracts of 200-300 words to: by Monday 30 April 2018. This call for papers is available in shareable formats at


Organisers: Dr Leona Skelton (Northumbria); Dr John Morgan (Manchester)

Funding: Limited domestic travel costs may be able to be covered for PhD students, early career researchers, and independent scholars.

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