2021 Tallinn Dissertation Prize Awardees

The Tallinn Prize Committee had a wonderful field of candidates for this prize. Congratulations to the winner, the finalists and all the other submissions. Together, you exemplified the breadth and richness of environmental history in and beyond Europe today. In the end our prize-winner was chosen because he models a next generation of history-writing that dances with the possibilities for environmental history when it includes theoretical perspectives from social history, from natural science and from public policy, and reaches out to an audience beyond the academy

Winner  of the ESEH Tallinn Dissertation Prize 2021 is Daniele Valisena Coal Lives: Italians and the Metabolism of Coal in Wallonia Belgium 1945-1980, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

Valisena has created a new “bottom-up” history as he takes us ‘geo-historical wayfaring’ through the coal landscapes of Wallonia. Beginning with the subterranean geology, he delineates a deep social history of place that is mobile and migratory, ever evolving. The Capitalocene and its predecessors are evident in the heritage of the material world: the terrils and waste dumps still colour the lives of the ‘daughters and sons and seeds of the coal age’ in the long post-coal future.

The writing is almost pointillist in style, drawing in theoretical perspectives as needed — from environmental history, migration studies, more-than-human studies, and more. Valisena deftly takes the reader along the slippery pathway of the Great Acceleration in Wallonia. His story starts in 1945, but it also starts in the 12th century, and in the geological deep past, and it flows strongly into the future, shining light on our uncertain present.

Coal Lives: Italians and the Metabolism of Coal in Wallonia Belgium 1945-1980 demonstrates how environmental history at its theoretically broadest can enhance public policy and decisions for the deep future. The dissertation reveals the centrality of this small slice of European history to the shape of Belgium, of Europe and of globalization of people and markets, while depicting the many layers of past landscapes and peoples that have forged its present urbanised world.

Daniele Valisena talks about his thesis titled Coal Lives: Italians and the Metabolism of Coal in Wallonia Belgium 1945-1980, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. (Interviewer: Noémi Ujházy, ESEH-NEXTGATe member)

You can find the abstract of the dissertation in the ESEH Dissertation Database.

Highly Commended

Melsted, Odinn Icelandic Energy Regimes: Fossil Fuels, Renewables, and the Making of a Low-carbon Energy Balance, 1940–1980,  Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck

Meiske, Martin Die Geburt des Geoengineerings. Großbauprojekte in der Frühphase des Anthropozäns (The Birth of Geoengineering. Large-Scale Engineering Projects in the Early Stage of the Anthropocene), Deutsches Museum/ LMU Munich

Sekulić, Ana Conversion of the Landscape: Environment and Religious Politics in an Early Modern Ottoman Town, Princeton University, USA.

Tallinn Dissertation Prize Committee

Libby Robin (chair), Australian National University, Australia
Onur Inal (Board Representative), University of Vienna, Austria
Ana Isabel Queiroz, NOVA FCSH, Lisbon, Portugal
Dan Tamir, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Simone Schleper, Maastricht University, Netherlands