Dr Timothy Cooper
I am a social historian of modern Britain with particular interests in nature, the environment, and everyday life. My research explores themes of environmental change and environmental disaster and their significance in ordinary everyday contexts. Methodologically it is inspired by 'history from below' and life narrative approaches and seeks to push against the grain of prevailing historigraphical concern with expert political and scientific accounts of 'nature' and the 'environment'.
Instead, I am mostly interested in examining quotidien stories of nature and environmental change. These 'everyday environments' are methodologically challenging to uncover, but reveal powerful commonplace resistances towards the imposition of bureacratised, rationalised understandings of nature, as well as skepticism towards elite 'environmentalisms'. I believe that properly understanding the character of everyday environmental concerns is critical to any attempt to respond to the existential environmental crises of the twenty-first century.
I am currently working on a number of projects that each overlap in messy and ill-defined ways. My current core project is an alternative history of marine pollution in modern Britain based on life narratives and oral histories. I am completing an oral history of the Torrey Canyon oil spill of 1967 as well as other pieces of work on pollution on the coastal margins of Britain. One of the attractions to this work is that it enables me to bring the coastal margins of Britain centre stage, and to reveal how the 'peripheral' areas of Britain still mattered politically even after processes of de-industrialisation had done their work.
I am also writing pieces that have emerged unexpectedly from this work on the practice of animal care in twentieth-century Britain and on the relationship between popular literature and everyday ideas about resources, nature and the environment.
Below is a list of selected recent conference paper which give some sense of how my work is developing:
- ‘Women and Children First?: The Feminist Art of Caring for the Dying Animal’, Animal Remains, University of Sheffield, 2019
- 'Finding Sanctuary?' Kent Animal Humanities Network, Maritime Animals, National Maritime Museum, 2019
- 'Time, Memory and Environmental Activism', University of Paris-Sorbonne, 2017
- 'The Oral History of the Torrey Canyon Disaster', University of Valencia, 2016
- 'Popular Scepticism of Science in Modern Britain', Technology, Environment and Modern Britain, UCL, 2016
- 'An Oral History of the Torrey Canyon Disaster', Historical Association, Plymouth University, 2016
- 'Narrating Catastrophe: Oral and Fictional Histories of the Torrey Canyon Oil Disaster', Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, University of Cambridge, 2015
- 'Boffins and Bureaucrats: Contested Environmental Knowledge in the Torrey Canyon Disaster', Oral History Society Annual Conference, Royal Holloway, University of London, 2015
- 'Capitalism and the Antinomies of Everyday Environmentalism: The Case of the Torrey Canyon', Capitalism and the Environment, University of Chicago, Paris, 2015
- 'The Contradictions of Victorian Sustainability', BAVS Annual Conference, University of Kent, 2014
- 'Wasting, Urban Rhythym and Everyday Environmentalism in Modern Britain', The Urbanisation of Nature, TU University, Darmstadt, 2014
I am always keen to discuss possible PhD or Master by Research supervisions across the broad field of modern social, cultural and environmental history. I have supervised students on topics ranging from creative writing and the archive to sociological studies of modern Cornish identity.
As a diverse group of scholars in literary and historical studies, the Department of Humanities at the Penryn Campus offers an outstanding interdisciplinary environment for postgraduate students in the humanities.
- Annabel Banks, Poetry and the Archive (completed 2016)
- Richard Harris, Civil Society in Cornwall (completed 2016)
- Matt Blewett (2018-) Cornwall and Democracy
- Lena Ferriday (SWWDTP, 2020-) Embodied Exeperience and Landscape in South West England
- Blog commentary on Big Ideas Change the World for Friends of the Earth, Make Tomorrow's World, Today, 2014
- Article for New Left Project, Historical Storytelling and the Present, 2013
- Article for The Conversation website, In Defence of Litter, 2013
- Short contribution on environmental policy and problems of everyday life, FOE Policy Review Submission, 2013
- Blog of the uses of history by the New Home Front Project for History and Policy, A New Home Front, 2011
- BBC History coverage of my critique of the New Home Front Project, Wartime Spirit, 2011
- Interview and report on the history of landfill with The Independent newspaper, Landfill, 2010
- History and Policy Select Committee Memorandum on the evolution and politics of modern techniques of refuse disposal, Waste Strategy for England, 2007