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Joyce Chaplin lecture on “The Franklin Stove: Heat and Life in the Little I...

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Pembroke Hall

172 Meeting Street

Providence, RI 02912

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Joyce E. Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. Her current research examines climate change and climate science in eighteenth-century early America, focusing on awareness of and responses to the Little Ice Age. The invention and circulation of the Franklin stove is the central example of her study. Climate history is an important new subject for historians, given that public debates over climate and resource scarcity have become urgent. Belief that our dilemma is unprecedented is inaccurate and unhelpful, perhaps especially within the United States. Climate-change mitigation existed in the past and analysis of it reveals useful patterns of success and failure. Early American history has tended to emphasize non-environmental themes and events — especially the American Revolution as national pivot. But this history of politics, of human-to-human relations, was always entangled in human use and knowledge of the natural world. Early Americans themselves knew this. Benjamin Franklin knew he was living in an age of climate change, in response to which he designed a heating system and articulated a climate science. Both are significant. Franklin’s proposals about maximizing the production of heat from a minimal quantity of fuel were widely translated and discussed — they were profound Enlightenment statements about settler colonialism, resource conservation, and climate change.

This lecture is part of the Initiative for Environmental Humanities at Brown University. The event it is free and open to the public.

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Pembroke Hall

172 Meeting Street

Providence, RI 02912

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