Digital Conceptual History and the Emergence of a Globalized Climate Imaginary

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
Author:
Michael BoydenRadboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands michael.boyden@ru.nl

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Ali BasiratLinköping University, Sweden ali.basirat@liu.se

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Karl BerglundUppsala University, Sweden karl.berglund@abm.uu.se

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This article offers an exploratory quantitative analysis of the conceptual career of climate in US English over the period 1800–2010. Our aim is to qualify two, closely related arguments circulating in Environmental Humanities scholarship regarding the concept’s history, namely that we only started to think of climate as a global entity aft er the introduction of general circulation models during the final quarter of the twentieth century, and, second, that climatic change only became an issue of environmental concern once scientists began to approach climate as a global model. While we do not dispute that the computer revolution resulted in a significantly new understanding of climate, our analysis points to a longer process of singularization and growing abstraction starting in the early nineteenth century that might help to nuance and deepen insights developed in environmental history.

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