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Community lecture takes climate change back in time

Climate change is back at the top of the environmental agenda. Over the past three decades it has changed from a largely scientific interest to a topic that touches all of our lives and is the source of grave concern.

However understandable the concerns and threats are today, human societies – of all levels of development – have been subject to the vagaries of the weather for centuries as author and academic Dr Debbie Smith will explain during a University of Sunderland Community Lecture (Wednesday, September 25).

Dr Smith will be drawing on the weather diaries of 19th century English lawyer and reformer James Losh, whose observations of Newcastle between 1802 to 1833 provide a fascinating insight into the life and weather of the time.

Dr Smith said: “Feast and famine, well-being and dearth have traditionally been the gift of the weather, in that sense little has changed.

“The James Losh diaries provide an informed, critical and thoughtful insight into the weather of early 19th Century Newcastle and how it contributed to the everyday life of residents of the town. Most certainly the climatic setting in which these connections were acted out is different to that of today: it was, most importantly much colder but his reflections provide a remarkable perspective on the links between weather and well-being.”

James Losh was an English lawyer, reformer and Unitarian in Newcastle upon Tyne. In politics, he was a significant contact in the North East for the national Whig leadership. William Wordsworth the poet called Losh in a letter of 1821 “my candid and enlightened friend”.

Dr Smith is the author of The James Losh Diaries, 1802-1833: Life and Weather in Early Nineteenth Century Newcastle-upon-Tyne, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

The community lecture takes place in Sir Tom Cowie Lecture Theatre in Prospect Building, Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s, from 2pm. All welcome to attend.

Dr Smith was a lecturer at the University of Sunderland from 1979 until her retirement in 2013. She has led a number of funded international research projects in climate change, authored three books and published over 100 scientific papers.

About the James Losh Diaries

Diaries offer us the rare privilege of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, and James Losh’s writings spanning the period 1802 to 1833 do just that.

To describe them simply as “weather diaries” is, however, to overlook the wider range of his critical and always informed eye.

Assuredly, weather is the main focus, but he sees other, broader, political and social events refracted through that meteorological prism. Living through, and being active in, the great age of reform of the early nineteenth century, Losh’s insight, the social milieu in which he lived and his active political life provide a fascinating and highly personal narrative. For too long these diaries have been a neglected source. This oversight is now remedied by this book.”

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