History meets palaeoscience: Consilience and collaboration in studying past societal responses to environmental change

John Haldon*, Lee Mordechai, Timothy P. Newfield, Arlen F. Chase, Adam Izdebski, Piotr Guzowski, Inga Labuhn, Neil Roberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


History and archaeology have a well-established engagement with issues of premodern societal development and the interaction between physical and cultural environments; together, they offer a holistic view that can generate insights into the nature of cultural resilience and adaptation, as well as responses to catastrophe. Grasping the challenges that climate change presents and evolving appropriate policies that promote and support mitigation and adaptation requires not only an understanding of the science and the contemporary politics, but also an understanding of the history of the societies affected and in particular of their cultural logic. But whereas archaeologists have developed productive links with the paleosciences, historians have, on the whole, remained muted voices in the debate until recently. Here, we suggest several ways in which a consilience between the historical sciences and the natural sciences, including attention to even distant historical pasts, can deepen contemporary understanding of environmental change and its effects on human societies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3210-3218
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - 27 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for this article was supported by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies Climate Change and History Research Initiative (https://cchri.princeton.edu/); Poland’s National Programme for the Development of the Humanities; and the Georgetown Environmental Initiative.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.


  • Adaptation
  • Collapse
  • Consilience
  • History
  • Resilience


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