The historical study of rivers can serve as a prism to refract the linkages between environment and politics, culture and technology, society and everyday life. Rivers have served different purposes, had different social functions, and have been assigned different cultural meanings over the course of time. Fear and control, individual submission and professional exuberance have been hallmarks of the shared history of humans and rivers. European and North American societies have come up with a variety of answers to economic and environmental questions posed by river use - questions about, for example, fishing, log driving, water supply, and flood control.
Our conference seeks to compare the findings of historians of technology, the environment, and culture whose work touches on river systems in North America and/or Europe during the early modern or modern eras. We invite proposals addressing, but not limited to, the following questions:
How have local, national, and supranational efforts to control rivers been in competition with each other? Who defined what constituted an ?appropriate? technology of river management?
What has the historical role of risk been in designing rivers? How important have individual floods and other catastrophes been?
What was the historical relationship between empires and rivers? Are there ?national styles? of managing rivers?
Have efforts to control river/riverine pollution been successful?
What was the relationship between the design of rivers and of cities?
How did water-borne diseases figure in the design of rivers, cities, and landscapes?
How can we best conceptualize rivers in light of Richard White?s notion of rivers as ?organic machines??
How have rivers figured in tourism? How have tourists perceived rivers? What was the relationship between the sublime and the creation of mass tourism?
Preference will be given to proposals addressing larger issues even if engaged in local or case studies. We would like to invite speakers from both sides of the Atlantic to present their research at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. Papers involving comparative issues are particularly welcome. Please send a short proposal of not more than 500 words and a brief c.v. with your postal and e-mail address no later than May 7, 2003 to both conveners. The German Historical Institute will cover participants' lodging and travel expenses.
German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
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