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Dr Paul Warde

Dr Paul Warde

Reader in Environmental History

Pembroke College
Trumpington Street

Cambridge CB2 1RF
Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 339950


After completing a degree in History and PhD at Cambridge, I was a Junior Research Fellow at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (1999-2001) before moving on to a lectureship at Pembroke College, Cambridge (2001-2007). Subsequently I worked at the University of East Anglia (2007-2014), first as a Reader in Early Modern History and then as Professor of Environmental History, before returning to Cambridge in January 2015. 

Research Interests

I work on the environmental, economic and social history of early modern and modern Europe. My interests lie in particular in the history of energy use and its relationship with social, economic and political development, and environmental change. I have worked extensively on peasant societies in early modern Europe, and their use and exchange of commodities, especially wood, and the effects on management of the land and forests; on the Industrial Revolution and the scale and consequences of shifts from 'traditional' energy carriers to fossil fuels and new renewable forms of energy supply; and on the history of environmental and economic thought, especially key concepts like 'sustainability' and 'environment'.

Forthcoming works include books on the intellectual history of 'sustainability' from 1500 to 1870 and a history of the concept of 'the environment' and its politicization and institutionalization during the 20th century. An article-length study on the potash trade of Britain (as a key sources of alkalis for early industrialization) and its ecological impact will be appearing in Past & Present. I am currently co-editing books on interdisciplinary approaches to energy policy; and a cultural history of water and power infrastructure in the UK.

Current and recent major grant-funded research projects include (1) energy use 'embodied' in trade (accounting for the energy that went into the production of traded goods) between 1700 and 1970, and the relationships of energy, structures of trade, carbon emissions, and economic growth. This is funded by the Swedish Research Council and in collaboration with Astrid Kander (Lund). (2) 'The Power and the water', an AHRC-funded collaborative (with colleagues at Bristol and Nottingham universities) study of attitudes to energy and water infrastructure in Britain , and (3) research in the energy history of the Scandinavian Arctic as part of a wider project on Arctic sustainability with colleagues at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, and Umea University.


Research Supervision

I am currently supervising two PhD students: one as part of the AHRC-funded 'the Power and the Water' project on an Environmental History of the UK National Grid; and another on the history of the south-west of England's transatlantic fisheries in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 2017-8 M.Phil projects will include work on livestock breeding in 18th England, and the history of the Pacific sardine fisheries in the 20th-century United States.

I would welcome research students interested in the environmental and economic history of early modern Europe, especially Germany, Scandinavia, and Britain; and the energy history of the modern world.


I currently teach the Part II specified subjects 'The Problem of Sustainability, 1500-1987', and 'Population, Development and Environment, 1750-2000'; and the Part I courses 'Themes in World Environmental History' (Themes and Sources); 'Social and economic History of Britain 1450-1750' (paper 9) and 'European history, 1450-1750' (paper 16).

Other Professional Activities

Research Director at the Centre for History and Economics, Magdalene College, Cambridge

Senior Editor at 'History & Policy'

Key Publications

The Invention of Sustainability. Nature, Human Action, and Destiny, 1500-1870 (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

The Environment: a history with Libby Robin and Sverker Sorlin (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming)

Local Places, Global Processes (Oxford: Windgather Press, 2016). Edited with Peter Coates and David Moon.

The Future of Nature. Documents of Global Change (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013). Edited with Libby Robin and Sverker Sörlin.

Power to the people. Energy in Europe in the last five centuries (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013). With Paolo Malanima and Astrid Kander.

Nature’s End. History and the Environment (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009). Edited with Sverker Sorlin

Energy Consumption in England & Wales, 1560-2004 (Naples: CNR, 2007)

Ecology, Economy and State Formation in Early Modern Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006)

The management of common land in north west Europe ca.1500-1850 CORN Publication Series Nr.8 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002). Edited with de Moor, M. and Shaw-Taylor, L.


Other Publications

'Trees, trade and textiles: potash imports and ecological dependency in British industry, c.1550- 1770', forthcoming in Past and Present.

'"Stratigraphy for the Renaissance: questions of expertise for "the environment" and "the Anthropocene"', Anthropocene Review, forthcoming. With Libby Robin and Sverker Sorlin.

‘Sustainability, resources and the destiny of states in German cameralist thought’ in Forrester, K., and Smith, S., eds, Nature, Action and the Future. The Environment in Political Thought  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

‘Social and environmental history in the Anthropocene’, in Arnold, J., ed., History Matters. History after Hobsbawm (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

‘Constructing Arctic Energy Resources: the case of the Canadian north, 1921-1980’, in Wormbs, N., ed., Arctic Futures, (Farnham: Ashgate, forthcoming).

'Cameralist writing in the mirror of practice: the long development of forestry in Germany', in Marten Seppel and Keith Tribe, (eds), Cameralism in practice. State administration and economy in early modern Europe (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2017), pp.111-131. 

‘The Environment’, in Coates, P., Moon, D., & Warde, P., eds, Local Places, Global Processes. (Oxford: Windgather Press, 2016), 32-46.

‘Early modern “resource crisis”: the wood shortage debates in Europe’, in Brown, A.T, Burn, A., and Doherty, R., eds, Crisis in economic and social history (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2015), 137-160.

‘Expertise for the Future: the Emergence of “Relevant Knowledge” in Environmental Predictions and Global Change, c.1920-1970’ (with Sverker Sörlin) in Andersson, J., & Rindzeviciute, E., eds, The Struggle for the Long Term in Transnational Science and Politics during the Cold War (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015), 39-62.

‘History, science and environment policy’, in Pinto, P.R., & Taithe, B., eds, The Impact of History? Histories at the Beginning of the 21st Century (Abingdon, Routledge, 2015), 139-152.

‘Global crisis or global coincidence?’, Past and Present 228 (2015), 287-301.

The Role of Energy Quality in Shaping Long-Term Energy Intensity in Europe’, in Energies 8 (2015), 133-53, with Gentvilaite, R. and Kander, A.

‘Recovering the land-use history behind a Mediterranean edge environment: The importance of cultural landscapes in biological conservation’, in Journal of Applied Geography 54 (2014), 1-17, with Marull, J., Tello, E., Wilcox, P.T., Coll, F., Pons, M., Valldeperas, N., and Ollés, A.

 ‘Looking backwards into a Mediterranean edge environment: Landscape changes in El Congost Valley (Catalonia), 1850-2005’, with Tello, E., Valldeperas, N., Ollés, E., Marull, J., Coll, F., & Wilcox, P.T., Environment and History, 20 (2014), 347-384.

Imposition, emulation and adaptation: regulatory regimes in the commons of early modern Germany’, Environment and History, 19 (2013), 313-337.

‘The idea of improvement, c.1520-1700’, in Hoyle, R., ed., Custom, Improvement and the Landscape in Early Modern Britain (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).

'Energy and natural resource dependence in Europe, 1500-1900’, in Rao, V., Woolcock, M.., & Szreter, S., eds, History, Historians and Development Policy. A Necessary Dialogue, (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2011)

‘The Invention of Sustainability’, Modern Intellectual History, 8 (2011), 153-170.

‘Energy availability from livestock and agricultural productivity in Europe, c.1800-1913: a new comparison’, Economic History Review, (1/2011), 1-29. With Astrid Kander.

‘The origins and development of institutional welfare support in early modern Württemberg. c.1500-1700’, Continuity & Change, (December 2007).

‘The Problem of the Problem of Environmental History – a Re-reading of the Field and Its Purpose’, Environmental History, (January 2007). With Sverker Sörlin.

‘The fear of wood shortage and the reality of the woodland in Europe, c.1450-1850’, History Workshop Journal, 62 (2006)

‘Subsistence and Sales. The Peasant Economy of Württemberg in the Early Seventeenth Century’, Economic History Review, (2/2006), 289-319.

'Waldnutzung, Landschaftsentwicklung und staatliche Reglementierung in der frühen Neuzeit', in Lorenz, S., Rückert, P., eds., Landnutzung und Landschaftsentwicklung im deutschen Südwesten. Zur Umweltgeschichte im späten Mittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit, (Stuttgart, 2009)

‘The Environmental History of Pre-industrial Agriculture in Europe’, in Warde, P., & Sörlin, S., Nature’s End. History and the Environment (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009)