Atmospheric happening and weather reasoning: Climate history in South Asia

Sarah Carson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


South Asian scholarship is increasingly approaching the natural world as both an active force in history and an object of sustained human concern. Until recently, where climate had been studied, it was closely associated with maritime trade, scientific racism, extractive imperialism, and discredited environmental determinism. Broadly, two new and opposing frameworks make the terrain of “climate” rich for re-thinking. First, the expansion of the concept of climate during the first half of the twentieth century from static and localized, to dynamic and global has had repercussions for both critical theory and empirical South Asian history. Second, increased interest in changeable, risky weather has invited focused studies at narrower temporal and geographical scales. Cultural and intellectual histories concerned with particular places connect pluralistic weather rationalities and practices to the livelihoods of diverse communities, including commercial traders and banking interests, sailors and boatmen, small farmers, Sanskrit scholars and astrologers, and professional meteorologists. Taking stock of the competing pulls toward planetary climate and localized weather, this article highlights developments across several subfields and suggests paths forward. It contends that research at the intersection of environmental history (atmospheric happening), and the history of knowledge (weather reasoning) is particularly fruitful for understanding the meanings and effects of human-environment interactions broadly, and global warming in particular.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12640
JournalHistory Compass
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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