Institute for Environmental History





The AHRC Centre for Environmental History (2002-06) did much to establish Environmental History as a distinctive subject nationally and internationally. Through its editorial management of Environment and History and its numerous conferences and workshops, the Centre asserted its leadership role. In its research, the Centre’s active collaboration between historians, geographers, sociologists, and environmental scientists produced an impressive array of academic and popular publications, including John Scanlan’s On Garbage (2005). In addition, public talks and media presentations emphasized the importance of a historical perspective for a proper appreciation of urgent environmental issues. In this respect, the Centre engaged in significant research on the history of ‘waste’ through an examination of municipal waste management and the loss of a domestic culture of re-use and recycling, and incineration and the growth of a ‘refuse revolution’. Moreover, the legacy of past processes on current resources has been well illustrated by a project which demonstrated the effect of waste disposal from burghs in the 16th to 19th centuries. Similarly, another project combined environmental and cultural history with environmental economics to investigate the effects that awareness of past landscapes can have on current preferences; and a comparative study of transhumance in Scotland and Spain demonstrated the complexity of the component processes which underwent gradual cultural evolution.

Members of the AHRC Centre at the University of St Andrews included Associate Director, John F.M. Clark (History, University of St Andrews), John Scanlan (now Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University), Tim Cooper (now Lecturer in Modern History, University of Exeter), and Mark Riley (now Lecturer in Geography, University of Portsmouth).

Selected Publications and Papers:

CLARK, John F.M. and SCANLAN, John, (eds), The World Turned Inside Out: Essays on Waste in History and Culture (Cambridge Scholars Press) (forthcoming)

2010. COOPER, Tim, 'Burying the 'refuse revolution': The rise of controlled tipping in Britain 1920-1960', Environment and Planning A, vol. 42: 5, 1033-1048

2010. COOPER, Tim. 'Recycling modernity: Waste and environmental history', History Compass, vol. 8: 9, 1114-1124

2009. COOPER, Tim. 'War on waste? The politics of waste and recycling in post-war Britain, 1950-1975', Capitalism Nature Socialism, vol. 20:4, 53-72

2009. CLARK, John F.M., ‘Jesse Cooper Dawes (1878-1955)’ in HCG Matthew, Brian Harrison and Lawrence Goldman (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2009)

2009. COOPER, Tim, 'Modernity and the politics of waste in Britain', in Warde P, Soerlin S (eds) Nature's End: History and the Environment, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 247-272

2008. CLARK, John F.M., ‘In the shadow of progress: the rise of municipal waste disposal in Britain’, in The Environmental Histories of Europe and Japan, ed. Tsunetoshi Mizoguchi (University of Nagoya, 2008), pp. 127-38.

2008. RILEY, Mark, ‘From salvage to recycling – new agendas or same old rubbish?’, Area, 40:1, 78-89

2007. COOPER, Tim, "War, Waste and the Rediscovery of Recycling, 1900-1950," Historical Research, vol. 81: 214, 2008, 710-731

2007. SCANLAN, John, "In Deadly Time: The Lasting On of Waste in Mayhew's London," Time & Society, Vol. 16: 2/3, 189-206

2007. CLARK, John F.M., "The Incineration of Refuse is Beautiful: Torquay and the Introduction of Municipal Refuse Destructors," Urban History, Vol. 34: 4, 254-76.

2006. SCANLAN, John, Spazzatura: Le cose (e le idee) che scartiamo, trans. Marta Monterisi (Roma: Donzelli, 2006), 246 p. + ill.

2006. SCANLAN, John, "Perduti e catturati" (Captured Lost), trans. Francesco Plazzi, Alchemy: associazione di idee, No.00 (Milano Marttima, 2006), pp. 8-15

2006 COOPER, Tim, "Rags, Bones and Recycling Bins," History Today, Vol. 56, Issue 2, pp. 17-18 {external link}

2005. CLARK, John F.M., 'The Fire Sermon: Municipal Waste Incineration in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Britain', text of a paper presented at Waste: The Social Context, May 11-14, 2005, Edmonton, Canada

2005. SCANLAN, John, On Garbage (London: Reaktion, 2005), pp. 208 + 31 ill.

2004. CLARK, John F.M., "Introduction" to DA Christie and EM Tansey (eds), Environmental Toxicology: The Legacy of Silent Spring, Wellcome Witness to Twentieth Century Medicine, vol 19 (London, 2004), pp v-x {pdf download}

2003. SCANLAN, John, "Why Garbage Matters: Tracing the City's Dirty Legacy," in Topic 3, Cities, pp.70-77


"a group that has seized the initiative in advancing the cause of environmental history in the UK"

BBC History Magazine, July 2001

Related Links

The Timeline of Waste, a work-in-progress.

Modernity & Waste conference website.