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Transatlantic Viewpoints on North American and European Wetlands

Regards croisés sur les zones humides nord américaines et européennes

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Published on Monday, February 18, 2013


Le groupe « Histoire des zones humides » co-organise avec l’université Laval et Dalhousie University (Québec et Nouvelle-Écosse, Canada) son cinquième colloque international sur le thème des  zones humides nord-américaines et européennes. Le colloque se déroulera au Québec et au Canada atlantique. Quatre axes seront plus particulièrement abordés dans ce colloque bilingue : la migration du modèle européen vers les côtes atlantiques ; l’aménagement des zones humides littorales : processus politique, socio-économique et technique ; regards croisés sur les perceptions des zones humides ; la ou les cultures indigènes des zones humides précédant le peuplement européen de l’Amérique.


Transatlantic Viewpoints on North American and European Wetlands, fifth International Conference of the Wetlands History Group (GHZH), co-organised with the Université Laval and Dalhousie University, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, 26-31 August 2013


In the post-industrial era (1970 – present) traditional discourse portrays humans as intrinsic disturbers of wetland environments. Drawing heavily on historical data from the industrial period (1820-1970), this discourse reduces and simplifies the historical human experience with wetlands to one where wetlands were perceived as “wasteland,” far less valuable in a natural state than in reengineered forms altered and constructed for human exploitation. However, in recent years this broad generalization has undergone considerable revision as new research demonstrates spatially and temporally complex relationships of human beings with wetlands. This research has demonstrated the weaknesses of superficial generalizations of human motives and actions vis-à-vis the environment, and the vulnerabilities of temporally limited environmental studies, arguing for the need to look beyond recent history when much wetland destruction occurred in order to fully understand the evolution of human relationships with wetlands across numerous contexts of time and civilizations. With an historical gaze that now extends over the longue durée of millennia, it is slowly becoming clear that prehistoric indigenous peoples, medieval and early modern Europeans, colonial North Americans and post-Industrial Westerners all viewed and interacted with wetlands in numerous sustainable and non-sustainable ways. As environmental historians and geographers come to understand the complexity of temporal change there is a corresponding need to also understand the changing nature of spatial relationships with wetlands.

This bilingual conference in French and English aims to explore four distinct themes of wetland history and geography

  • The European model of migration towards the Atlantic coasts of the New World took place in diverse environments.

What were the European technical and cultural patterns that were put in place within the wetlands of the Atlantic coast from Antiquity to the end of the nineteenth century? How were these models constructed and diffused throughout Europe? Can we establish a correlation between the waves of European emigration to the New Words and the implementation of these models on the shores of North America? Who were the actors responsible for these transfers?

  • The management of coastal wetlands stems from political and economic practices as well as social and technical processes.

From the beginning, drainage operations necessitated the involvement of state or municipal authorities and depended on significant investments based on future benefits, financial or otherwise. This long-term trend, constituting a hydraulic model, relied upon the implementation of gravity or mechanical hydraulic technics according to geographical conditions. Today, the management of wetlands still requires significant technical and financial investment -- despite sometimes diametrically opposed goals (drainage/irrigation, opening/closing of the landscape, etc.). The articulation of these different factors operated and still operates in diverse manners according to place and time. In consequence, it can be profitably asked: what are the similarities and differences between North American wetland practices on the one hand, and European practices, in all their cultural diversity, on the other hand? Were drainage practices, as in 16th-century Acadia, New Holland and New England, simply direct transfers of European culture and technology to North America – or a combination of cultural heritage and New World exigencies? Were the goals of wetland drainage and management in the New World motivated by the same goals as in the Old World? Was the transfer of wetland knowledge unidirectional from the Old to the New World, or was it bidirectional as North American culture and technology developed? Who were the principal actors in wetland management (institutions, investors, labourers, military)? Can we speak of movements or diffusion of management models over time? Can some of these models be labeled positive or "sustainable"?

  • Today, the understanding of what constitutes “nature,” especially the perception of wetlands, varies greatly, not only among European countries, but also more importantly between North America and Europe

How are these differences explained? How do they induce dissimilar representations? How do they influence daily relations between people and the spaces they inhabit and value? How similar or different are the recent trends in recovering and renaturalising wetlands on both sides of the Atlantic? What have the impacts of these new trends been on the landscape? What do we know about the transatlantic flow and influence of scientific knowledge from the mid-nineteenth century between North America and Europe (Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Shaler, William F. Ganong, Henry Cowles, Arthur Tansley, Eugene Odum, John Teale, etc.) that employed wetlands as a medium to advance some of the most sophisticated ecological concepts such as temporal succession of plants and ecosystem energy flow? And, what has been the impact in the twentieth century of transatlantic movements such as Ducks Unlimited, Lebensraum, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands act on the contemporary management of wetlands?

  • There is as undeniable presentism in current wetland research that renders invisible much of the oldest history of indigenous European and native North American interaction with wetlands in pre-modern times

What is the state of our current understanding of pre-modern wetland cultures, both European and North American, prior to the modern European settlement of wetlands in Europe and of European settlement in North America? How are the identity and territorial claims of indigenous wetland peoples in Europe and North America as integral players in the spatial territories of wetlands being played out today? In post-colonial and post-modern societies such as Europe and North America, there is an urgent need to understand the origins of indigenous wetland cultures and the lessons they can contribute to the understanding of sustainable societies.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for papers should be submitted in the form of a summary of one page with a title and a list of three or four keywords.

It should make explicit reference to one of the four themes in which the contribution is intended.

Proposals must be sent by mail to the Secretary of the Group for the History of Wetlands (GHZH) magalie.franchomme@univ-lille1.fr  and the conference coordinator matthew.hatvany@ggr.ulaval.ca 

before April 1, 2013.

  • Authors will be notified of the decision of the Scientific Committee before May 1, 2013.
  • Accepted abstracts and the program will be published on the website of GHZH and that of the Université Laval before June 1, 2013.
  • The full texts of conference participants must reach the organizers no later than the day of the conference.

Scientific committee

  • Corinne Beck (Université de Valenciennes-Hainaut Cambraisis, GHZH, ESEH, RUCHE)
  • Jean-Michel Derex (GHZH)
  • Magalie Franchomme (Université Lille 1, TVES EA 4477, GHZH)
  • Eric Glon (Université Lille 1, TVES EA 4477, GHZH)
  • Matthew Hatvany (Université Laval, GHZH, CIEQ)
  • Raphaël Morera (chercheur associé au CNAM-CDHTE, GHZH, RUCHE)
  • Bertrand Sajaloli (Université d’Orléans, CEDETE EA 1210, GHZH)
  • Sylvie Servain-Courant (ENSNP, UMR 6173 CITERES, GHZH, Zone Atelier Loire)

Conference organisers

  • Magalie Franchomme (GHZH, Université des Sciences et Techniques de Lille)
  • Rod Giblett (Edith Cowan University)
  • Matthew Hatvany (Université Laval, GHZH, CIEQ)
  • Ella Hermon (Université Laval, Académie des sciences humaines)
  • Gregory Kennedy (Université de Moncton)
  • Bertrand Sajaloli (Université d’Orléans, CEDETE EA 1210, ZAL, GHZH)
  • Robert Summerby-Murray (Dalhousie University)

Provisional program

The conference will take place from Monday August 26 to Saturday August 31. The meeting begins and ends in Quebec City - easily accessible by plane (YQB Jean Lesage International Airport; train (Via Rail Canada) and bus. The conference presentations and field trips will take place at iconic wetland locations in Quebec and Atlantic Canada including Cap-Tourmente, Quebec (Monday August 26), La Pocatière, Quebec (Tuesday August 27), Sackville, New Brunswick (Wednesday and Thursday August 28 and 29) and Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia (August 30), returning to Quebec City August 31. During the conference we will be visiting or passing through numerous scenic areas of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, spouses and partners are welcome to attend the conference at the same cost as conference attendees. We will be finalising the conference program in the spring and will immediately post it on the Internet sites of the GHZH and the Department of Geography, Université Laval.


Registration costs are $125 CDN (€100) for professors and professionals, and $100 CDN (€75) for graduate students.


  • Quebec City, Canada


  • Monday, April 01, 2013


  • zones humides, littorales, nord-américaines, perceptions, techniques


  • Magalie Franchomme
    courriel : magalie [dot] franchomme [at] univ-lille1 [dot] fr
  • Matthew Hatvany
    courriel : matthew [dot] hatvany [at] ggr [dot] ulaval [dot] ca

Information source

  • Magalie Franchomme
    courriel : magalie [dot] franchomme [at] univ-lille1 [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Transatlantic Viewpoints on North American and European Wetlands », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, February 18, 2013, https://doi.org/10.58079/mx3

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