HIST 2581 Environmental History (also AMST 2581, BSOC 2581) (HB) (HA-AS) (HNA)
Tuesday and Thursday: 10:10-11:25 plus discusion
Professor Aaron Sachs
This lecture course serves as an introduction to the historical study of humanity's interrelationship with the natural world. Environmental history is a quickly evolving field, taking on increasing importance as the environment itself becomes increasingly important in world affairs. During this semester, we'll examine the sometimes unexpected ways in which "natural" forces have shaped human history (the role of germs, for instance, in the colonization of North America); the ways in which human beings have shaped the natural world (through agriculture, urbanization, and industrialization, as well as the formation of things like wildlife preserves); and the ways in which cultural, scientific, political, and philosophical attitudes toward the environment have changed over time. This is designed as an intensely interdisciplinary course: we'll view history through the lenses of ecology, literature, art, film, law, anthropology, and geography. Our focus will be on the United States, but, just as environmental pollutants cross borders, so too will this class, especially toward the end, when we attempt to put U.S. environmental history into a geopolitical context. This course is meant to be open to all, including non-majors and first-year students. There are no prerequisites.