For the uninitiated, “Environmental History” is a growing sub-field of the historical discipline. To paraphrase one of our readings from last week, environmental historians write about “the relationship between human societies and the rest of nature on which they depended” (McNeill 347).
The early weeks of this class introduce students to the sub-field and offer some “case studies” for understanding the work that environmental historians do. Thereafter, the course is focused on thinking about “environmentalism” and how it is informed by a host of other “isms” out there—“isms” (and not all of them actually end with ‘-ism’), simply put, being ways of thinking that make big claims about how we should think, act, and organize our societies. We’ll discuss different ideologies, imperialism, industrialism, humanitarianism, democracy, and how these things are shaped by and in turn shape environmental politics.
You’re welcome to follow along—the somewhat disorganized syllabus below contains references to the readings students will complete—and I will try to offer updates once a week or so.
Our first week’s meetings involved an introduction to environmental history, to the course, and a discussion of some texts that offer an overview of the subject. Most students in the class are not history majors, and so it was interesting getting their perspectives on the discipline and on how they think environmental history—and history in general—can help them to think about the world and their own subjects.
*McNeill, J. R. "The State of the Field of Environmental History" in The Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2010, 35: 345-74.
Week 1: Introductions
25 August (Lecture 1): What is Environmental History?
Readings: Course Syllabus
27 August (Lecture 2): Challenges of the Global
Readings: “The State of the Field of Environmental History”--J. R. McNeill; “The New World of the Anthropocene”; “Introduction”--Stephen Mosley
Week 2: Ancient/Medieval/Early Modern Environmental History
1 September (Lecture 3): Doing Environmental History Long-Term
Readings: Selections from Cotton, Climate, and Camels--Richard Bulliet; Selections, The History Manifesto (begin reading Mosquito Empires)
3 September (Lecture 4): Environmental History and National Narratives
Readings: Selections from Retreat of the Elephants
Week 3: Making New Worlds
8 September (Lecture 5): Changing Historiographies
Readings: Selections from Ecological Imperialism
10 September (Lecture 6):
Readings: Mosquito Empires
Week 4: Environmentalism and the ‘isms’
15 September: To be determined
18 September (Lecture 7):
Reading: “Going Green” from Ramachandra Guha; “Global Environmentalism and the Greening of Modern Society”--Robert Falkner
Week 5: Industrialization
22 September (Lecture 8):
Reading: “Back to the Land” from Ramachandra Guha”; “Cities and the Environment”--Mosley
24 September (Lecture 9):
Reading: The Dawn of Green
Week 6: Imperialism
29 September (Lecture 10):
Readings: “The ideology of scientific conservation” from Ramachandra Guha; “Forestry and Forests”--Mosley
1 October (Lecture 11):
Readings: “Scientific Empire and Imperial Science: Colonialism and Irrigation Technology in the Indus Basin”--David Gilmartin; “Colonial Experts, Developmental and Environmental Doctrines, and the Legacies of Late British Colonialism”--Joseph Hodge
6 October (Lecture 12): MIDTERM EXAM
8 October (Lecture 13): Democracy, Part 1
Readings: Selections from Democracy on the March--David Lilienthal
13 October (Lecture 14): Democracy, Part 2
Readings: “Carbon Democracy”--Timothy Mitchell
15 October (Lecture 15): Development, Part 1
Readings:. “The Age of Ecological Innocence” from Ramachandra Guha
20 October (Lecture 16): Development, Part 2
Readings: Selections from Kariba: The Struggle With the River God
22 October (Lecture 17): Ideology, Part 1
Readings: Selections from Between Protest and Power: the Green Party in Germany
27 October (Lecture 18): Ideology, Part 2
Readings: Selections from Mao’s War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China
29 October (Lecture 19):
Readings: “The ecology of affluence” from Ramachandra Guha
3 November (Lecture 20):
Readings: Selections from Between Protest and Power: the Green Party in Germany--E. Gene Frankland
5 November (Lecture 21):
Readings: “The Growth of the Wilderness Ideal” from Ramachandra Guha
10 November (Lecture 22):
Readings: “Elephant Problems”--Jeff Schauer; “The World Hunt”--Mosley
12 November (Lecture 23):
Readings:“The Southern Challenge” from Ramachandra Guha; begin reading Unbowed.
17 November (Lecture 24):
Readings: Selections from Environmental Justice: Concepts, Evidence, and Politics
19 November (Lecture 23):
Readings: Selections from Imperial Nature: The World Bank and the Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization
Week 14: Human and Political Rights
24 November (Lecture 25):
26 November (Lecture 26): Happy Thanksgiving! No class.
1 December (Lecture 27):
Readings: “One World or Two?” from Ramachandra Guha; “Is Environmentalism Still a ‘White’ Phenomenon?”; Selections from Imperial Nature.
3 December (Lecture 28): Concluding Thoughts
Final Exam: 10 December, 12.10 Final essay due in my departmental box.