The Threat of the Desert: Colonial Climatology, Theories of Desiccation, and Climate Engineering, 1870-1950


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation examines the late nineteenth-century debate on climate change and desertification and its impact on large engineering projects designed to transform desert environments. While the academic discussion among European scientists stalled early in the twentieth century, the theories and terminology that the debate generated enjoyed staying power. The large engineering projects discussed, from French and British schemes to flood large parts of the Sahara, pan-European plans for a geo-engineered Euro-African continent, to a Germanified and newly fertile Eastern Europe, were expressions both of the anxieties of catastrophic environmental change and the enthusiasm about the capacity of industrial technology to ameliorate and ‘fix’ nature.