Environmental History of Latin America: An Overview

History 103E.002

Spring 2013
3104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 10-12


This seminar will provide an overview of the environmental history of Latin America from the colonial period to the present day. Environmental history focuses on the changing relationships between human societies and nature, pushing the environment from its traditional role as a mere background where historical processes unfold to the foreground of history. This relatively new field of scholarship brings in a new set of characters that has traditionally been overlooked by historians, such as soils, forests, animals, rivers, and pathogens.  This course, however, is based on the premise that environmental history provides scholars not only with new subjects of historical analysis but also with a lens through which to reexamine old debates such as the nature of modernization, the dynamics of popular struggle, and the formation of the state. The course will tackle a few broad questions: a) what was the environmental impact of European colonization in what is today Latin America? b) How have colonialism and capitalism shaped nature and how have they been shaped in return by nature in Latin America? c) How have different cultures viewed nature and, more specifically, what has been the history and role of conservation ideologies and discourses in Latin America?
Course meetings will involve discussions of readings and other material covered in class. Requirements include in-class presentations on the part of students, and the writing of one book review, one brief paper, and one longer historiographical essay.