American Environmental and Cultural History

History 120AC

Fall 2014
Day & Time: 
MWF 10-11A
  • This course satisfies the American Cultures Requirement.
  • This class examines how diverse human societies and natural environments have shaped one another throughout the history of the United States and the Americas more broadly. We will explore the consequences of the Pleistocene Extinctions, the development of agriculture, indigenous resource management, and the impacts of ecological encounters with European colonists. Our study of European colonization will emphasize the role of exotic diseases in reshaping native demography, how invasive species reconfigured ecology, and the ways that the production of staple commodities restructured relationships between labor, capital, land, race, and ecology from New England to the Caribbean. We will examine the impact of the Louisiana Purchase, the Expansion of the Cotton Kingdom, the rise of industrial manufacturing, and how agriculture contributed to the causes and outcomes of the Civil War. From the Transcendentalists and the Hudson River School to the writings of Marsh, Muir, and Leopold, the course traces the deep intellectual roots that shaped the emergence of conservationist thought. Twentieth Century topics we will explore include: environmental justice and environmental racism; water rights, water law, irrigation, and dams; the unnatural history of “natural” disasters; the role of the federal government in managing public resources and protecting public health; the rise of the environmental movement; the transition to a fossil fuel economy and its economic, environmental, and political consequences; how NGOs have shaped policy debates and pioneered conservation strategies; the changing nature of agriculture through the twentieth century; the causes and consequences of global climate change for the United States and the World.

    Course Books

    Routes of Power by Christopher F. Jones Harvard University Press. ISBN: 978-0674728899 Required
    The Organic Machine by Richard White Hill and Wang. ISBN: 978-0809015832 Required
    An Entirely Synthetic Fish by Anders Halverson Yale University Press. ISBN: 978-0300140880 Required
    A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold Ballantine Books. ISBN: 978-0345345059 Required
    Changes in the Land by William Cronon Hill and Wang. ISBN: 978-0809016341 Required