Document Actions

You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2020/21 Prof. Dr. Melanie Arndt

Prof. Dr. Melanie Arndt

University of Freiburg
Internal Senior Fellow
October 2020 - September 2021

Phone +49 (0)761-203 3442


Melanie Arndt joined Albert Ludwig University Freiburg as chair for economic, social and environmental history in April 2020. After studying political science, modern history and East European studies in Potsdam, Berlin and London, she gained her PhD from Humboldt University in 2008 with a study on healthcare in divided Berlin before the building of the Berlin Wall, which was published by Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht in 2009. Arndt has led several international research projects, such as “Politics and Society after Chernobyl” at the Leibniz Center for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF) and “Contemporary Environmental History of the Soviet Union” (EcoGlobReg) at the Leibniz Institute for East and South East European History (IOS) Regensburg (together with Prof. Dr. Klaus Gestwa, Tübingen, and Dr. Marc Elie, CNRS, Paris). Arndt was a fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (2012) and the Stanford Humanities Center (2013/14). Arndt was managing editor of the Jahrbuecher fuer Geschichte Osteuropas and is board member of Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary Historand Zeitgeschichte Online. In 2018 she earned her habilitation with a manuscript on the transnational social consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, which was published with Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht in 2020. In the book, she analyzes the transnational networks that were created around the so-called Chernobyl children, who became both witnesses and representatives of a vanishing political system, the dissolution of the bipolar world order, and life in the Anthropocene. 

Selected Publications

  • Tschernobylkinder. Die transnationale Geschichte einer nuklearen Katastrophe. Reihe Umwelt und Gesellschaft Bd. 21, Göttingen 2020. 
  • Tschernobyl. Auswirkungen des Reaktorunfalls auf die Bundesrepublik und die DDR, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen, Erfurt 2011 (gleichzeitig: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Berlin; 2012, 3. überarb. Auflage; auch in Russisch und als E-Book erhältlich).
  • zus. mit Laurent Coumel: „A Green End for the Red Empire? Ecological Debates and Regional Protests in the Soviet Union and its Successor States, 1950–2000: a Decentralized Approach“, special issue Ab Imperio (2019) 1.
  • Umweltgeschichte, überarbeitete, erweiterte Version 3.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 10.11.2015, online:
  • Gesundheitspolitik im geteilten Berlin 1948–1961, Reihe Zeithistorische Studien Bd. 43, Köln/Weimar/Wien 2009.

FRIAS Research Project

Fired Up: The Unintended Consequences of Energy Resilience

In my project, I examine the social and environmental changes brought about by central heating in three European cities (Vienna, Stockholm, St. Petersburg) within the context of state-controlled welfare and increasing prosperity, on the one hand, and energy security and the often unintended, long-term consequences for the environment, on the other hand. Resilience, understood as the capacity to deal with change, is key to understanding the tension between flexibility and stability in the development and perception of central heating. Central heating was far more than a purely technological invention of late industrialization that supplied heat to several rooms, entire residential units or even entire districts more cheaply and effectively than ever before. It was more than just an infrastructure in the sense of a built network that allows substances to circulate according to fixed rules. Focusing on the infrastructure of warmth allows to link the material world – both natural and technical –with the social and the emotional. The heating pipes not only provided ‘thermal’ but also ‘social’ warmth, social practices and values, which were in turn often connected with even greater energy and resource consumption. The municipal and state provision of heated private and public spaces increased the demands and expectations of the population for resilient, stable heating systems. However, the consumers also developed their own forms of resilience during times of disturbances in the heat supply. From an environmental history perspective I hope to enrich the discussions on Resilience by highlighting the temporal dimensions of current discussions and nature’s still often overlooked part in history.