Terje Tvedt, a professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Bergen (UiB), served as a CAS project leader during the 2008/09 academic year. His project, Understanding the Role of Water in History and Development, explored how the availability of freshwater influenced the early stages of the industrial revolution in Europe. 

In the 10 years since his stay at CAS, Tvedt has continued to work on topics that arose during his stay at the Centre. He has also been a recurring figure in the opinion pages, most recently for his best-selling (and controversial!) book Det internasjonale gjennombruddet (Dreyer) on Norway’s transformation from a homogenous outsider to a multicultural contributor to global humanitarian efforts.

Tvedt looked back on his stay at CAS in an interview last month.

Why did you apply to CAS?

It gave me an almost perfect opportunity at the right moment in my ongoing research on the role of water in development and history. I had a quite clear research plan and also an extensive network of researchers. I thought it would be very productive to bring this interest and these people together for research, seminars, and discussions at CAS. I hoped that CAS would be more open to this type of crossover, multidisciplinary research than what the ordinary programmes of the Research Council of Norway had proven to be. It turned out to be exactly that.

What do you remember best from your year at CAS?

Most importantly, the very helpful and efficient administration; secondly, the interesting seminars with people presenting research findings about topics I did not know could interest me; and then, of course, the view from the veranda.

How has your career developed since your stay at CAS?

It made it possible to publish six new volumes in the A History of Water series (three volumes were published before the stay at CAS). With chapters written by about 225 researchers from about 100 countries, this collection is quite unique, and is very widely used. In addition, it enabled me to write up a theoretical book on how to understand and analyse relations and confluences between water and societies. Moreover, the institutional affiliation made it easier, I think, to get access to presidents and prime ministers in the Nile valley when I started to prepare for the documentary The Nile Quest. Other group members have also published extensively after the year at CAS. I am, by the way, still working on problems developed at CAS.

What advice do you have for future CAS project leaders?

Be happy while you are there! Most likely it will be many years until you have a similar chance to concentrate on research. And try to organise the project in such a way that you do not end up administrating other people’s research.