American Environmental History, 1890–Present
HIST 379, By Marsha Weisiger
Term: Winter 2021Syllabus:
This course examines American environmental history from the Progressive Era to the present, with a focus on the development of the conservation, environmental, and environmental justice movements. Environmental history explores the past through an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates insights from ecology, geography, anthropology, and cultural studies, as well as history. At its essence, it considers how humans and their natural environments have interacted and reshaped each other through time. Those interactions undergird all of American history. To demonstrate that claim, we’ll follow several paths of inquiry: How has the natural environment influenced human actions, decisions, and cultural and social development? How have people perceived or imagined the natural world? How have they molded and even reordered the natural environment? How have they struggled with each other over ways the environment should be treated and understood? What have been the intended and unintended consequences of their actions? What are the ethical implications of those actions? We’ll also pay attention to the marks people leave on the physical landscape, and we’ll consider how we might learn more about human history by using those marks as clues. To better understand those clues, we will take a field trip at the end of week three.