The British Origins of the Anthropocene: Coal, Climate, and Deep Time, 1784-1884


ACLS Fellowship Program




Paul Crutzen has proposed that anthropogenic climate change marks the advent of a new epoch in geological time – the Anthropocene. This crisis calls into question the viability of modern consumer society with its promise of indefinite economic growth. It also forces us to confront deep time scales in politics as our present actions threaten to unleash massive long-term changes. This project investigates the historical origins of the Anthropocene in Britain’s industrial revolution. It argues that several major features of this crisis can be traced back to the late eighteenth and nineteenth century when the British public began to debate the political and environmental implications of the new mineral energy economy.