The Power and the Water: Connecting Pasts with Futures

Research project key facts
Project title The Power and the Water: Connecting Pasts with Futures
School Humanities
Department History
Dates 01 October 2013 - 01 October 2016
Funder AHRC
Contact Professor Peter Coates

More about this project

'The Power and the Water: Connecting Pasts with Futures' examines the nature of environmental 'connectivities' since industrialization and how their legacies challenge us in the early 21st century. The understanding of how place, livelihood and community is moulded by interacting processes of multiple spatial scale and different durations, that link local actions to the 'planetary system'. These understandings relate to how infrastructure and its environmental impacts generate new distances but, equally, fresh bonds between places, peoples, institutions and cultures. Our understanding of connectivity also engages with how the construction and sustainment of human communities creates a landscape that can facilitate or interrupt the interactions of species, biodiversity and the resilience of socio-cultural and natural worlds.

We will examine how different environmental narratives are deployed in particular places and contexts; how these narratives interact; how they seek to link communities and their environmental impacts; how they connect designated environmental 'experts' and a variety of publics and policymakers; and how, in turn, they shape identities and forge new communities of understanding, shared infrastructure and political action. We will also consider shared negative experiences that affect community resilience, social learning and environmental policy response.

We will examine how notions of the 'environmental' and 'natural' categorize spaces and demarcate what is worthy of protection, privileging certain ideas of what is valued in nature and how ecological and socio-cultural connections work. In particular, we explore the transformative role of technology across a range of liquid and energy environments - from the manipulation of the Tyne and proposed harnessing of the Severn to the drainage of Peak District mines and massive electricity delivery systems such as pylons.

People involved in this project

Principal investigator:


  • Paul Warde (University of East Anglia)
  • Georgina Endfield (University of Nottingham)