Historical Ecology

Do you want perspectives on sustainable development and environmental change? Are you interested in history and the interactions between people and environment over time? Do you want a long-term perspective on the complex interactions between society, people and environment?  

Course content

The purpose of this 7.5 credit master´s course is to provide students with an overview of the theoretical frameworks offered by historical ecology for understanding interactions between society, environment and climate as well as their particular complexities. The importance of an integrated and long-term understanding of these complex interactions in comprehending and solving present day problems of sustainability will be discussed and critically assessed. Examples of applying a historical ecological framework to local cross-disciplinary case studies will be given. Students will also apply historical ecological analyses to their own material/or chosen material, which may become part of a larger project or result in scientific papers.

Upon completion of the course the students will be able to:

  • critically assess and analyse interactions between societal processes, environment and climate variability from a historical perspective.
  • critically assess and analyse the importance of an integrated and historical understanding in relation to solving present day problems of sustainability.
  • review and assess the applicability of theoretical models available within the field of historical ecology.
  • apply a historical ecological framework to a case study.


The course will run for the first time 26 March-4th June 2012


For more information contact anneli.ekblom@arkeologi.uu.se, registration core UU-00109


 The course is open for students admitted to the master program of the Faculty of Arts or a Bachelor's degree in any discipline.

What is historical ecology?

Historical ecology aims to analyse and understand historical and contemporary interactions between physical environmental processes and the many social interactions that build society. We study connections and conflicts within society and in the interactions between people and environment over time, assuming that these interactions are complex and problematic.

The historical time depth provides an integrated understanding of how the actions and decisions of individuals and norms of behaviour structure and are structured by societal norms and organizations, as well as by the design of both the man-made and the physical landscape. An understanding of the interactions between social dynamics and dynamical physical processes is crucial for the understanding of the conditions of today and for the formulation of possible solutions for the future. The historical time depth we are interested in offers alternative solutions regarding models for sustainable societies and sustainable developments. It also provides an arena for the analysis and evaluation of different solutions for sustainable development.


The course consists of lectures aimed at providing an overview of different applications of historical ecology. Group discussions will be based on a subject of interest and/or a chosen case study for an essay or paper. Supervision regarding subject, framework and style will be provided by the coordinating teacher and lecturers as part of the course. 


The course will be examined through individual student papers or essays. These may form part of a larger project or be the foundation for a scientific paper. Active participation in lectures, seminars and group discussions is required. Unless special circumstances apply, Pass with distinction (VG) cannot be obtained if the examination paper is overdue. Examination in Swedish or English is possible. The course will be given in English.