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Photo of Dr Semih Celik

Dr Semih Celik

Lecturer in the History of Science and Citizenship (Education and Research)

My academic interests fall under the rubric of environmental history and history of science in the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. My research aims on the one hand to locate the Ottoman Empire within global history, on the other hand to contribute to historiography and curricula with non-colonial histories of the environment and science.

I am currently working on my book manuscript titled Climate Change, Famines and Empire-Building in Anatolia c. 1800-1850. The book aims to bring together the outcomes of my PhD and postdoctoral research on the climate change in early nineteenth century Anatolia; the development and institutionalization of scientific approaches to nature - especially the founding of a natural history museum in Istanbul in the 1830s; social and administrative reactions to droughts and famines; and humanitarianism during famines.

More extensively, my research and publications scrutinize human-animal relationship in the early-modern and modern Middle East, networks of scientists and natural history museums, wetlands and the Anthropocene, and history of archaeology. In general, I am concerned with the role different actors played (and continue to play) in understanding and shaping the nature through various environing technologies.

I am interested in developing interdisciplinary methodologies for the analysis of history of climate change. Therefore I am open to collaboration from other disciplines. I also aim to employ digital humanities methodologies in my research.


Research interests

My academic interests can be summarized as follows: History of science, environment and medicine c. 1700-1950; famines; natural history museums; history of the Middle East; Ottoman Empire; history of humanitarianism; history of archaeology in the Middle East; natural heritage; history of poverty and charity; digital humanities

Currently I am developing a proposal for a European Research Council (ERC) funding on a project which aims to deepen my research on the first natural history museum of the Ottoman Empire. The project aims to discuss the role of the museum in the global history of science and engagement of different public groups with natural history through the museum.



As part of research activities in Gygaia Projects ( where I am a Senior Researcher, I participate in fieldwork with the archeologists from Kaymakci Archaeology Project led by Christopher H. Roosevelt. Kaymakci is a western Anatolian mid- to late-bronze age site located in the hinterland of Izmir, not far from the Lydian capital city of Sardis. Both Sardis and Kaymakci benefited from the resources from the nearby pulse lake, which Lydians called "Gygaia Lake" and the Ottomans "Marmara Lake". The social, economic, religious, and ecologic significance of the lake and its extended wetlands over millennia makes up a large cluster in the research agenda of Gygaia Projects.

My research aims to locate Marmara Lake within the long-duree environmental history of the region. In addition to archival research, I participate in fieldwork and benefit from scientific methods which archaeologists employ. Although due to Covid-19 pandemic fieldwork had to be kept limited during the last two excavation seasons, we had the opportunity to conduct extended lake basin coring activities in Fall 2021. The outcomes of this most recent collaborative fieldwork, which has been supported by the German Archaeology Institute (DAI) and Koc University Research Center on Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) as part of a project on the 8500 years of humidity in western Anatolia, will be available in various publications in the 2022-2023 academic year.

Outcomes of my previous research in collaboration with members of the Kaymakci Archaeology Project, especially with Christina Luke, on the environmental history of the Gygaia/Marmara Lake and its wetlands have been published recently in an edited volume, and an article is currently under review in Environment and History. 


External impact and engagement

My research has been published in semi-academic/popular journals and disseminated through other media. I have also been invited to various public talks to present my research to a wider audience in Turkish. 

Most recently, I have been invited by the Turkish Pavilion of the Seventeenth International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, to contribute to their online section with a commentary on the role of the Ottoman natural history museum on the development of a vocabulary defining the various of aspects of human-nature relationship in the nineteenth century (



Having obtained my BA degree in Political Science and International Relations, and MA degree in History in Istanbul, I moved to Florence to continue my studies at the History and Civilization PhD program in European University Institute. I wrote my PhD dissertation under the co-supervision of Prof. Luca Mola and Prof. Suraiya Faroqhi and defended it in 2017. In October 2016 I started working as a (postdoctoral) research fellow in an ERC project at the Department of History at Koc University, Istanbul. In June 2020 I have been awarded with funding for a 2,5-year project by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and continued my research and teaching activities at the same department as a PI until I joined the History Department at Exeter in January 2022.

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