Environmental Studies

Dr Richard Grove

General Introduction

International Governmental and public concern has long been aroused by the impact of unprecedented consumption of space and resources on Earth’s environmental systems and human societies. They are generated by our rapidly increasing technological capability, reorganisation of international political and economic systems such as the rapid industrio-economic emergence of China, India and other developing nations, global demographic trends and crises in the global banking system.

Concerted global action failed to enforce the Kyoto Protocol, despite recognising the changing fabric of society and reorganisation of socio-economic systems link to progressive degradation of our physical and social environments. Implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2015 Summit (CoP 21), may not now be enough to stave off the tipping-point into Dangerous Climate Change in the light of unprecedented global extreme weather in 2018. Even so, the 2021 COP26 set net zero carbon targets by 2050.

Past environmental changes and human-environment impacts offer important ‘proxy’ clues to those we now experience and how our ancestors perceived and reacted, amounting to a sea-change in the recognition of human-forced global climate and environmental change. We may have to manage its consequences rather than prevent it. A new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, may have now begun.

An Opportunity for Interdisciplinary Study

Participation in this interdisciplinary Course is encouraged, irrespective of the student’s principal academic background. The Course options in Environmental Studies explore the character and implications of these changes through multi- and inter-disciplinary studies, since solutions for our socio-economic and environmental future can be found no longer in a single discipline. Participants from a wide range of relevant academic backgrounds can expect to bring their particular expertise to the Course and to appreciate the significance of adjacent disciplines through the Oxford Tutorial system of study.

Historical evidence of the impact of physical and human forces shaping the landscape is important to our themes. This is evident in the use made during the Summer School of the rich and diverse nature of British Landscapes in illustrating the impact of past as well as contemporary environmental, socio-economic, cultural and technological systems and using them as models on which to forecast the future.

As a result, the Course is likely to appeal to majors in Archaeology, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Ecology, European Studies, Geography, History, Humanities, International Studies, Life Sciences, Medieval Studies, Policy, Political, Social & Economic Studies and Urban Studies.

Field Excursions

A popular, 4-Day Field Excursion The Development of British Landscapes is held half-way through the Summer School and is a co-requisite part of the academic programme of study as well as being open to other participants of the Summer School. This is in addition to the general, 1-Day Excursions which form an integral part of the Summer School-wide Programme (see main brochure). Many parts of the British Isles record almost continuous human settlement from the end of the last global episode of the Ice Age 11,700 years ago, embracing inter alia periods of Neolithic (upper Stone Age), Bronze & Iron Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement prior to the Norman Conquest, the High Middle Ages, Industrial Revolution and Modern periods. They provide a magnificent opportunity for direct study of a full range of environmental changes in an enjoyable academic and social atmosphere.

Selection of the Programme of Study

Choice of Course Options allows participants to construct their own individual Summer School programmes, enabling them to concentrate on areas of prime interest or to extend their range of study by sampling related disciplines. Two Options, each one described individually and accompanying this brochure, are available as follows:




11,500 BP ~ 1700 AD/CE

Students study ONE Option (worth 6 credits) and co-requisite 4-Day Field Excursion (worth 2 Credits) to form a Full, 8-Credit Programme.

Other students not studying the Environmental Studies Course are welcome to attend this Field Excursion if places are available.

On application, participants are asked to nominate both Options in order of preference. First preferences will be allocated as far as possible (and are the normal rule) but it may be necessary to vary this occasionally in order to obtain balanced Tutorial groups. The College reserves the right to do this.

Each Option will involve an average of 4-5 hours specialist formal contact with tutors each week, including interdisciplinary hours with the other Option in the Environmental Studies Course. Students are required to submit a Tutorial Essay or present a Seminar Paper/PowerPoint in each week of the Programme.

© Dr Ken Addison, Oxford Academic Summer School Tours Ltd: for 2024

St Peter’s College Summer School at Magdalen College, University of Oxford