What role do environmental factors play in migration? Currently, climate change in Central America is driving farmers off their land, and environmental issues are displacing millions across the world. Environmentally motivated migration is also a historical phenomenon. Environmental change, gradual or rapid, has often been a cause or consequence of migration. Moreover, migrants arrive at new sites without shedding the experiences of the landscapes they left behind.

What did settlers, labor migrants (forced or voluntary), traveling experts, or environmental refugees know about their environments, old and new? What was impossible for them to know, and what did they choose to ignore? How did they adapt to and exploit new environments? How did they gauge the relevance of environmental factors for their everyday lives and decision-making?


Earnshaw, Sarah. Disaster Temporalities, Temporary Protection: Race, Return, and Resilience in Forced (Environmental) Migration from the “Greater Caribbean” to the United States

Steinberg, Swen. Knowing the Mountains and Woods: Discourses and Knowledge Transfer Practices in Central European and North American Mining and Forestry, 1860–1960.


Steinberg, Swen. “Wooden Wars: American Foresters, Knowledge, and French Forestry (1917–1919).” In War and Geography: The Spatiality of Organized Mass Violence, edited by Sarah Danielsson and Frank Jacob, 215–41. Paderborn: Schoeningh, 2017.

“Bergbau, Bäume und Bonanza: Freiberg, Tharandt und der Wissenstransfer zwischen ‘Alter’ und ‘Neuer’ Welt,” in BOOM! 500 Jahre Industriekultur in Sachsen: Ausstellungskatalog zur vierten Sächsischen Landesausstellung (Dresden: Sandstein, 2020), 71–75.

Steinberg, Swen, and Frank Jacob, eds., Semmeln aus Sägemehl: Lebensmittelskandale und Wissensordnungen (Marburg: Büchner, 2020).

Westermann, Andrea. “Migrations and Radical Environmental Change: When Social History Meets the History of Science.” NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 27, no. 3 (2019): 377–89.


Environments of Exile: Refugees, Nature, and Representations. Biennial Conference of the North American Society for Exile Studies at Queen’s University, September 23-25, 2021, organized by Swen Steinberg and Helga Schreckenberger.

Colonialism, Migration, and the Anthropocene: Historical Perspectives, Present Interpretations, Future Trends. Virtual roundtable organized by Swen Steinberg as part of the “Global Histories of Colonialism” workshop of the Global History Initiative at Queen’s University, November 7, 2020.

Environments of Exile: Refugees, Nature, and Representations. Biennial Conference of the North American Society for Exile Studies, September 18-20, 2020, Queen’s University, Kingston, OT, organized by Swen Steinberg and Helga Schreckenberger.

“Work, Migration, Environment: The German and Central European Experience.” Conference panel, 43rd Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, Portland, OR, October 3-6, 2019, organized by Andrea Westermann (commentator) and Eagle Glassheim (moderator).

“Globale Adaptionen: Wissen über Umweltgestaltung zwischen Asien, Europa und den USA im 20. Jahrhundert.” Conference panel, 2. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für die Geschichte der Wissenschaften, der Medizin und der Technik zum Rahmenthema “Umwelt und Wissen,” Bochum, October 12–14, 2018, organized by Swen Steinberg and Mariko Jacoby.

“Knowledge in Transfer and Transformation: The Earth and Natural Sciences between Localism and Globalization.” Three-panel session at the 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology in Rio de Janeiro, July 23-29, 2017, organized by Swen Steinberg and Nele-Hendrikje Lehmann.

“The Global Forest: Knowledge, Economy, and Perceptions in the 20th Century.” Panel at the Biannual European Society for Environmental History Conference, June 28 to July 2, 2017, in Zagreb, organized by Swen Steinberg and Martin Bemmann.

Related Blog Posts