Coffee Hour: Agricultural History in Geographical and Evolutionary Perspective

Friday, October 31, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

Agricultural History in Geographical and Evolutionary Perspective

About the talk

Much scholarly attention has been paid to agricultural origins, and to developments subsequent to 1492, but relatively little to the long, intervening time period.  In this presentation, I outline agricultural history from inception up through the “Columbian Exchange”.  This history proves interesting in its own right, and illuminating with respect to several fundamental debates about how history and human cultural evolution unfold.  These debates include diffusion vs. independent invention; contingency vs. predictability; nature vs. culture as drivers of human events; progress and/or population pressure as drivers of development; cultural evolution as a process that can be examined from a Darwinian perspective, or not; and engineering vs. tinkering in evolution and in history.


Suggested reading:


About the speaker

Mark BlumlerMark A. Blumler is an  associate professor in the Departments of Geography and Biological Sciences, Binghamton University. Blumler’s research interests are broadly within the areas of biogeography, ecology, and evolution, though ranging at times into historical geography and social theory.  His early training was in plant ecology, related to his concern for California wildflowers, under threat from invasive species.  His dissertation employed the Comparative Method to understand the spectacular success of Mediterranean annuals in California, featuring field work both there and in Israel.  It turned out that the wild progenitors of cultivated grains, wild wheat, wild barley, and wild oats, are natural dominants in Near Eastern ecosystems, and so his research also produced results that were of interest to those studying the origins of agriculture. Besides publishing on invasive species, agricultural origins, the evolution of crops and weeds, and Mediterranean climate ecosystems, Blumler has also researched and published on succession theory, lyme disease, fire ecology, environmental history, history of science, US foreign policy, energy, and the ethnicity of the Forbes 400 list.  Currently, he is mainly concerned with preventing societal collapse.




Angela Rogers