A History of Nature: From the Lisbon Earthquake to “Lucifer’s Heatwave"

History 103B.003

Spring 2018
3205 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
F 12-2
Class Number: 

Since the early days of modernity, nature has been an object of competing visions over humanity, society, politics, religion, law, and culture. As a concept, nature has been continually configured and reconfigured to support myriad philosophies and ideologies. As a physical space, it has been used, manipulated, shaped and protected in various ways by powerful forces, from kings and empires to global corporations. In this course, we will ask how and why have we moderns come to think about and appropriate nature in the ways we do today? What do different practices and ideas concerning nature reveal about our culture? Why do ostensibly similar natural disasters ignite contrasting political and philosophical debates across different periods? Why do we view certain things as “natural” and others as “unnatural”? Although the course will follow a chronological framework, spanning roughly from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the present day, its main focus will be thematic. Thus, we will examine issues such as environmentalism, natural history, natural rights, nature and empire, nature and the state, nature and religion, human-animal relations, and the nexus of race, gender and nature.