SNSF-Research Project and Doctoral Thesis
Historiographies of Climate for a Pastoral Rhône Valley: Engineers, Scientists, and Travelers’ Reports on Nineteenth Century Environmental Knowledge

SNSF-Research Project and Doctoral Thesis
Tatiana Carbonell
Prof. Dr. Laurent Stalder
since 2022

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, a climate crisis in the alpine Rhône Valley led to a shift in the understanding of climate. The development of this specific conception of the phenomenon can be attributed, in part, to the construction of specific infrastructures that were built in response to the region’s extreme weather conditions caused by Indonesian Mont Tambora eruption in 1815. This research seeks to examine these technologies as frontiers where discourse about climate encounter their material forms. The core of this dissertation is composed of the study of three infrastructures that were built to respond to the sudden and extreme conditions. These interconnected case studies situated in the Val d'Entremont served as valuable tools for observing climate through distinct approaches. Collectively, these technologies turned the alpine region into a frontier of experimentation. The research argues that by building and recording the performance of these infrastructures, engineers, scientists, and travelers were regulating hydrological phenomena, modifying the alpine landscape, and producing important knowledge that influenced the development of a modern climate consciousness. The conception of climate as a dynamic and fluctuating phenomenon—as opposed to predetermined and timeless—unlocked the need to inquire into its past to predict its future, inaugurating the writing of nuanced historiographies of climate.


Tatiana Carbonell Guillon