June 2011
Message 48

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[Met-jobs] Studentship on "The Consequences of Past and Future Climate Change for State Formation and Security in Southern Africa"

From Grant R Bigg <>
Date Sat, 18 Jun 2011 14:20:49 +0100

The Consequences of Past and Future Climate Change for State Formation and Security in Southern Africa

Supervisors: Dr. Julie Jones & Professor Grant Bigg (Geography); Profs Martial Staub and Ian Phimister (History)

One of the key developments in African governmental structures during recent times was the creation of state borders during the European colonisation scramble of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These paid little attention to previous boundaries between people or states, but were geo-political artifacts designed to satisfy colonial ambitions. As global climate change begins to amplify over the next few decades its manifestation in southern Africa may fuel this inherent source of conflict by accentuating existing water and land resource divisions. One hypothesis we propose to test is that existing ethnic boundaries are the historical reflection of different climate and/or resource regimes. Change to these environmental boundaries may therefore feed into renewed conflict and security issues across the region.

It is proposed to explore this hypothesis in southern Africa, especially sensitive to the contrasting effect of climate variability from the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east, by examining the historical environment-resource contexts of two defining moments over a 500 year period and contrasting these with the environmental tensions within the confines of the twenty-first century nation state. The methodologies employed in this project draw from Medieval and Modern History, and from Physical Geography. The former include critical examination of archival evidence, supplemented where appropriate by scrutiny of published archaeological records, and transcripts of African oral traditions. The latter’s exploration of the potential influence of climate changes on past and future events will employ three different methods of estimating climate variability over the past 600 years: early meteorological measurements from ship’s logbooks, proxy data (from tree-rings and other sources), and simulations of past and future climate using Global Climate Models (GCMs).

This doctoral project will tie together a variety of disciplines and approaches. It will equip the student undertaking it with a most valuable interdisciplinary expertise. Above all, it will give him/her a unique expertise to reflect on ways of, and develop tools, tying historical analysis with predictions regarding the consequences of climate change. By locating Africa and, more precisely, southern Africa at the core of this method, it will also open new perspectives on development and global challenges.

The studentship award will pay the UK/EU fees and a maintenance stipend at the standard RCUK rate (£13,590 in 2011-12).

Applications should be made using the post-graduate on-line application form at and should include an up-to-date CV with a covering letter. The covering letter must include a summary as to why you wish to apply for this particular studentship and how your interests and experience relate to the project.

Application deadline: 8th July 2011

For further information please contact Prof. Grant Bigg (

Professor Grant R. Bigg,
Head of Department,
Department of Geography,
University of Sheffield,
Winter Street, Sheffield S10 2TN
phone:44+ (0)114 2227905  fax: 44+ (0)114 2797907

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