History at Leicester

Flood and Flow: Place-Names and the Changing Hydrology of River-Systems

Flood and Flow is two-year interdisciplinary research project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust. The project is based at the University of Leicester, and draws on expertise from the Institute of Name Studies at the University of Nottingham, the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales, and the School of Geography at the University of Southampton.

Flooding, linked to climate change, is recognised in the Committee for Climate Change Risk Assessment Report 2017 as the single largest environmental threat to the UK.   In England alone, 5.2 million homes are now at risk from flooding, a figure expected to rise significantly in the next few decades. In 2014 the annual cost of flood damage was placed at £1.1 billion and predicted to rise to £27 billion by 2080.

Primarily drawing on place-name evidence, ours is the first project to study river flooding and water/land management during the period c.700-1100AD, the last major episode on record of rapid warming and weather extremes. This critical period of climate change is targeted because it offers the closest parallels for our own times, since this was when most now-occupied centres of population were first established, and when these places gained their names.

This project will assess how historic place-names, archaeology, and palaeoenvironmental evidence might be effectively marshalled to map riverine landscapes during periods of rapid climate change. We will ask whether these names, laden with environmental information, in known locations still occupied today, remain valuable guides to understanding the nature of modern river flows, floodplain and wetland environments, and human responses to living with and managing water across whole river catchment basins.

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