Middle East Environmental History: The Fallow between Two Fields
This chapter introduces the field of Middle East environmental history. It begins by discussing an older geophysical and biological literature that has set the stage for this book. It then points to what global environmental historians stand to gain from a consideration of the Middle East and North Africa's ecological past: knowledge of how one of the central regions of Eurasian history fits into global patterns of trade and commerce, the ability to test out theories of environmental change in a region that affords one of the longest documentary records of any on earth, and an understanding of how the cultural traditions of the Middle East and North Africa engaged with nature and environmental processes. This chapter then takes the opposite perspective to explain how Middle East Studies can benefit from adopting some of the methodologies of environmental history. The benefits include breaking out of traditional understandings of periodization and geographic demarcation; including new actors in the historiography of the field; and thinking in new ways about major debates in Middle East Studies, such as imperial decline in the early modern period or the politics of oil in the twentieth century.
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