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Alex Hibberts

The Sustainability of Settlement and Exploitation of Liminal Environments in the North Sea Region, c.1150-1400

The Sustainability of Settlement and Exploitation of Liminal Environments in the North Sea Region, c.1150-1400 in the Department of History


I am an environmental historian, specialising in medieval and early-modern European history. I arrived at Durham in 2016 and completed a BA (Hons) in History, spending an Erasmus year at Uppsala University (2018-19). In 2020, I was awarded a NINE DTP 1+3 studentship in Social and Economic History jointly funded by the AHRC and ESRC. Subsequently, I completed an MA (Research Methods) in Social and Economic History (2020-2021) before starting my PhD in October 2021.


My research focuses on exploring the vulnerability of liminal environments, such as coastal wetlands, to historic climate change between c.1350-1650. Investigating four English communities of Augustinian canons, and their post-dissolution successors, I seek to understand if the medieval to early modern socio-economic transformation mirrored broader environmental changes.

Gone are the days when historians only examined written documents! I have always been keen to draw on alternative historical sources, including archaeology, the built environment, historical ecology, and landscapes. In the past, I have radiocarbon dated human remains (paper forthcoming), examined the obscurities of monastic architecture, spent time studying trees, and got lost in wetlands.

Queries about my research are welcomed (@HibbertsAlex). I'm also chair of the Northern Environmental History Network (@NorthernEnviro3).

Seminars and Conferences

‘A Walk in the Past: Teaching Environmental History in the Fields, Woods, and Open Air’ : Environmental History Symposium, Durham History Department (28th April 2021)

'Beyond Past Horizons: Interdisciplinarity, an environmental historian's perspective' : NINE DTP Autumn Conference, Durham University (22nd November 2021)

'Inaugural Workshop': Northern Environmental History Network; co-organised event with Nick Pepper, Northumbria University (9th February 2022)

'Tempests and Sea Flood': Marine Transgression and Landscape Transition at Hastings Augustinian Priory, c.1350-1417': Bristol Centre for Medieval Studies PGR Conference (30th April 2022)

'Digging up the Past: The Hunt for Wroxeter's Forgotten Early Medieval Cemetery, c.450-650': Medieval and Early Modern Student Association, Durham University (6th June 2022)

‘Tempests and Sea Flood’: Attributing Agency and Mitigating Sea Level Rise on a Destructive Coastline at Hastings Augustinian Priory, c.1350-1417': European Society for Environmental History PGR and ECR Summer School, Bristol University (10-13th July 2022)

'Crisis, Change, and Isolation through time in the English Countryside'; preformed panel with Emma Yeo (Durham) and Nick Pepper (Northumbria): Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment Biennial Conference, Northumbria University (6-8th September 2022)

'Everyday Climate Change: Experiencing Historic Climatic Variability from the Bottom-Up, c.1400-1550': Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies, Sheffield University (29th November 2022)

'Culverting Divine Power: Drainage Systems, Water, and the Monastic Imagination, c.1350-1550': Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, Manchester University (6th November 2022)

Research interests

  • Environmental History
  • Historical Climatology
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Medieval and Early Modern Built Environments
  • Monastic History