HIST 240

Global Environmental History

This course introduces students to the methods and sources of environmental history, a field that seeks to understand the changing relationship between human societies and the natural world. Since global environmental history is at times an unwieldy historical field, I have chosen to organize the course around two axes which are important in the framing of historical research—geographical scope and timescale. The impacts of environmental change can be local (clearing a field), regional (damming a river), or global (pollution). As such, the choice of a unit of analysis shapes how a historian approaches a topic and their conclusions. Similarly, where a historian chooses to begin and end their story has implications for their final interpretation. The choice of geographical and chronological scope influences the methods environmental historians use to recover the past. In addition to drawing upon traditional documentary sources, environmental historians often work in an interdisciplinary fashion, incorporating scientific data and methods with those of the humanities and social sciences. To better understand this process we will interrogate a sampling of environmental history methods and the sources, including “big history,” evolutionary history, transnational and regional history, comparative history, and ecosystem or microhistory.

Course Teachers