Environmental History of Portuguese XXth Century

Environmental History of Portuguese XXth Century

Although Environmental History is a well established academic discipline it remains a largely ignored field of research in Portugal. The first aim of the current project is to start exploring an alternative narrative of the Portuguese Twentieth Century from an Environmental History perspective, with water, air and forests playing a central role. The project will make the case that by including floods, dams, air pollution and catastrophic fires to general historians accounts of sociopolitical processes we increase the significance of our narratives. We expect namely to enhance public discussions about sustainability issues. 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
No
Keywords: 

Environmental History, Public Policies, Catastrophes, Landscapes

Although Environmental History is a well established academic discipline it remains a largely ignored field of research in Portugal. The first aim of the current project is to start exploring an alternative narrative of the Portuguese Twentieth Century from an Environmental History perspective, with water, air and forests playing a central role. The project will make the case that by including floods, dams, air pollution and catastrophic fires to general historians accounts of sociopolitical processes we increase the significance of our narratives. We expect namely to enhance public discussions about sustainability issues. 

Objectivos: 
The first aim of the current project is to start exploring an alternative narrative of the Portuguese Twentieth Century from an Environmental History perspective. The challenge is to introduce variables that normally are not taken into account in general historiography. We want to experiment with the power of Water, Air and Forests to produce a new understanding of the Contemporary History of Portugal, by placing the damming of rivers, the planting of pine trees in mountain areas or air pollution in Lisbon Metropolitan Area at the center of the narrative.The project thus also aims at contributing to a general discussion of the environmental effects of a century of public policies that profoundly changed the landscapes all over the country. Namely, we want to put in perspective phenomena usually perceived as natural disasters, such as floods, droughts and fires, by relating them to concrete historical options on how the Portuguese territory should be managed. By displacing the narrative from Catastrophe to Policy we intend to enhance public discussion about Sustainability issues.
State of the art: 
Although Environmental History is a well established academic discipline both in the United States and Europe, as demonstrated by the current dynamics of the American Society for Environmental History and the European Society for Environmental History and their respective journals - Environmental History and Environment and History -, it remains a largely ignored field of research in Portugal. Of course many works developed under the traditional disciplines of Cultural and Historical Geography or Agrarian History can be easily placed under the more fashionable banner of Environmental History. To be sure, rivers, mountains and climate occupy the central stage in the works of the most distinguished of Portuguese geographers - Orlando Rodrigues (1963). Soils and droughts also enter the narrative of many agriculture historians (Fernando Oliveira Baptista, 1993). Nevertheless, it is fair to acknowledge that the Environment has played a minor role in the general understanding of the trajectories of Portuguese History in the Twentieth Century. When not totally oblivious to environmental factors, general historians, namely those of contemporary Portugal, limit themselves to take the natural conditions of the country as part of the context where human actions take place. <p>By drawing from the insights suggested by international literature we wish to recognize certain autonomy of nature in the shaping of Portuguese history (Cronon, 1990). But, and in accordance to a trend that separate European Environmental Historians from their American counterparts, we will be mostly concerned with the ways Portuguese society interacted with and shaped its environment along the twentieth century, not drawing clear boundaries between the natural and the built environment (David Blackbourn, 2006). After all, European Environmental historians have necessarily seen a cultivated landscape as the central focus of their studies. They have been less concerned with the study of an alleged-and some might say fictitious-&quot;uninhabited wilderness&quot; that has occupied American historians, and they are less insistent about the autonomy of natural forces (Caroline Ford, 2007).</p><p>For the three research objects -water, air, forests - around which the current project is designed there is abundant secondary bibliography available. We have, for example, at our disposal accounts of the building of irrigation systems in Alentejo (Sofia Bento, 2006); narratives about the effort to fight tuberculosis and the role of mountain sanatoriums (Sousa, 1999); case studies of Estado Novo forestry policies (Brouwer, 1995). Many more references could be added. Although we will also make extensive use of primary sources from newspapers, scientific reports or interviews with participating actors, we can thus count with previous works produced by historians of science, environmental sociologists and even anthropologists. Nevertheless, all those disparate studies were never weaved together to build a more comprehensive image of the Portuguese Twentieth Century, they were just cases integrated in some larger social, economical or political context. In this research project their role will be inversed: they will be used instead to build a narrative where the social, the economical and the political are deeply intertwined with environmental issues thus offering a new way to look at Portuguese Contemporary History.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>Fernando Oliveira Baptista, A pol&iacute;tica agr&aacute;ria do Estado Novo (Porto: Afrontamento, 1993)</p><p>Sofia Coelho Bento, La difficile existence du barrage d&lsquo;Alqueva: Une ethnographie des demonstrations sociotechniques (Lisboa: tese de doutoramento UTL/ENSMP, 2006)</p><p>David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (London: Jonathan Cape, 2006);</p><p>Roland Brouwer, Planting power: the afforestation of the commons and State formation in Portugal (Delft: Erburon, 1995)</p><p>William Cronon, &quot;Modes of Prophecy and Production: Placing Nature in History,&quot; Journal of American History 76, no. 4 (March 1990);</p><p>Caroline Ford, &quot;Nature's Fortunes: New Directions in European Environmental History,&quot; Journal of Modern History (March 2007): 112-133;</p><p>Orlando Ribeiro, Portugal, o Mediterr&acirc;neo e o Atl&acirc;ntico : esbo&ccedil;o de rela&ccedil;&otilde;es geogr&aacute;ficas (Lisboa; Sa da Costa, 1963);</p>Jorge Pais de Sousa, Bissaya Barreto : ordem e progresso (Coimbra: Minerva, 1999).
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/01/2008
End Date: 
01/12/2010
Duração: 
35 meses
Closed