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Environmental Humanities

The Environmental Humanities Research Group is the newest of the Department of the Humanities research clusters.

The Environmental Humanities Research Group brings together scholars from across the Department of Humanities and has particular strengths in history, literary studies and creative writing. We have strong links with regional organisations, including the Environment Agency, Northumberland National Park Authority, the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the National Railway Museum (York) and the Forestry Commission. We are also involved with international scholarly societies and organisations, including the European Society for Environmental History, the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, the Arcadiana blog and the Coastal History Network. 

Areas that we research include the history of national parks, nature conservation and environmental activism; cultural and intellectual histories of energy; animal studies; responses to natural disasters, particularly by religious communities; the ecological history of British Empire, particularly Australia and the Caribbean; theories of mobility, borders, and landscape; and the history of sanitation and water and river management from the early modern through to the modern period. Creative writers associated with the group are particularly interested in the poetry and prose of place, nature and human-animal relationships. 

Published and forthcoming books by members of the group include environmental histories of the River Tyne, of Dartmoor, of the Los Angeles’s Beaches and of early modern brewing; nature writing memoirs; histories of prayer and natural disaster in the British Empire; a collective biography of women environmental activists in twentieth-century Britain; a study of the literary landscapes of the Anglo-Scottish Borderlands; and an ecocritical study of colonial natural history. 

Three of our PhD students have recently won AHRC-funding and one of our members, Dr Gareth Roddy, is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow pursuing a project entitled ‘Enchantment and affect in the borderscapes of Britain and Ireland, c. 1880–1979’. Matthew Kelly is involved in the AHRC-funded project ‘Decommissioning the Twentieth Century: Energy Landscapes, Heritage and Community’ as part of their ‘Changing Landscapes: Towards a new Decision Making Framework for UK Landscapes and Land Assets’ scheme. Tony Williams, Ysanne Holt and Matthew Kelly are part of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust National Lottery-funded Wildwood regeneration project.

The group runs a reading group, has regular brown bag lunches and has organised a number of academic events, including the 2019 Environmental History Workshop (EHW) conference on the theme of ‘Flows,’ a British Academy-funded conference on ‘Rural Modernism,’ and the biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI) in September 2022 on the theme of ‘Epochs, Ages, and Cycles: Times and the Environment’. 

Dr Leona Skelton ( is happy to include anyone who would like to be kept up-to-date with our activities or would like to attend our events.

Selected recent and current activities and projects:

ASLE-UKI 2022 conference

• 'Coastal Connections’ 2021-2022 seminar supported by the Institute of Historical Research and organised by the Coastal History Network. Find out more.

Arcadiana blog (Arcadiana is a blog about the environment in literature and culture. It is hosted by postgraduate members of the European Association for Literature, Culture and the Environment (EASLCE). Julia Ditter is founding member and editor of the blog)

• The Northumberland Wildlife Trust National Lottery-funded Wildwood regeneration project

• AHRC-funded project ‘Decommissioning the Twentieth Century: Energy Landscapes, Heritage and Community’ 

EHW 2019: Flows

Conference rural modernism (2019)


Brycchan Carey

Elsa Devienne

Paul Goodfellow

Joseph Hardwick  

Martyn Hudson

Matthew Kelly

Andrew Perchard

Gareth Roddy

Leona Skelton

David Stewart 

Rebecca Wright

Tony Williams 

PGR Students 

Louis Bonnett

Julia Ditter – find out more about Julia's work on her website

Ciaran Johnson

Nick Pepper – Nick’s research area is late 20th / early 21st century national park history. He is working towards a combined doctoral award in conjunction with Northumberland National Park Authority. 

Thomas Ratcliffe

Sofie Schrey – find out more about Sofie's work on her website

Katherine Stanton – Katherine's PhD study explores post-Millennial British working-class literature. Katherine is interested in issues of class – and intersections with gender, race, and other categories of identity – in contemporary place and nature writing and the evolution of working-class narratives in the last two decades, particularly in relation to the ways in which these stories articulate and contest social inequalities.

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