Charles-François Mathis is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Former president of the French Network of Environmental Historians, he is a member of the editorial board of the journal Environment and History and is in charge of the collection "L'Environnement a une histoire" (“Environment has a history”), published by Champ Vallon.
A specialist in environmental history, he approaches the 19th century through the prism of the changing relationship between Western societies and their environment, offering a renewed perspective on the social practices, public policies and mental universes of the period. His research is organised around two main areas.
The first area concerns the new relationship of European societies to nature and landscapes in the 19th century, in particular in their heritage protection dimension: the aim here is to examine national singularities as well as points of convergence. The starting point was his thesis on the birth of the environmental movement in England in the 19th century, through a study of its ideology, its associative structures and the public policies implemented. On this basis, CF Mathis's reflection continued around two issues. Firstly, he questioned the methods of renewing the links between humans and their natural environment, around national and heritage issues, emotional upheavals in the face of landscapes or outdoor leisure practices. The other set of questions focuses more specifically on the protection of nature itself and the struggles that lead to it, often from a comparative perspective (what is unique about France in terms of environmental protection? What are the modalities of environmental mobilisations, notably through European congresses? Etc.)
The history of energy is the second field around which his research is organised. He approaches this field from the angle of concrete practices, representations and public policies. This is the meaning of his habilitation thesis, defended in December 2020 at the EHESS, which in turn offers an original look at the relationship between English domestic consumers and coal between 1830 and 1940. In it, he analyses, in an approach that sometimes resembles historical anthropology, all the social dimensions of what has been called the 'coal civilisation': from the perception of this fuel to its uses, including its shortages and resistance to energy alternatives.
This research has led him to focus on the environmental thought of William Morris (poet, designer, social activist and so much more...), both central to understanding the ideology of the English conservation movement and a key thinker on the crisis of British civilisation in its relationship to energy. As such, he also opens up new avenues of thought for the future. However, although a few publications have addressed his environmental sensitivity, no in-depth research has been proposed to date, based on solid archives and offering a meticulous and detailed analysis of this thought, its construction and its evolution over the course of Morris's life, particularly by linking the themes of nature protection and fossil civilization, which are too often separated. This will be the focus of a biography on Morris that Charles-François Mathis is undertaking, and the reason for his coming to the MFO.
Selected publications :
- La civilisation du charbon, Paris, Vendémiaire, 2021.
- Une histoire des luttes pour l’environnement, Paris, Textuel, 2021. En co-écriture avec Anne-Claude Ambroise-Rendu, Steve Hagimont et Alexis Vrignon.
- Sous le Soleil. Systèmes et transitions énergétiques du Moyen Âge à nos jours, Paris, Editions de la Sorbonne, 2019. En co-direction avec Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud
- La Ville végétale. Histoire de la nature en milieu urbain (France, XVIIe – XXIe siècle), Ceyzérieu, Champ Vallon, 2017. En co-écriture avec Emilie-Anne Pépy.
English translation: Greening the City, Cambridge, The White Horse Press, juin 2020.
- In Nature We Trust : Les paysages anglais à l'ère industrielle, Paris, PUPS, septembre 2010