Throughout history warfare and the preparations for war have been an integral aspect of organized societies. This has had complex and fateful impacts on the natural environment. But environmental historians have largely neglected the impacts of military mobilization and collective violence. Conversely, military historians have neglected the environmental impact of war and militarization, although the field of military history has routinely studied the ways in which climate and terrain have shaped warfare. Yet this is a vital aspect of today's challenge to limit the ecological degradation of the biosphere. Since the Vietnam War (in tandem with the rise of the environmental movement) there has been greater public awareness of the environmental consequences of both war itself and also peacetime (Cold
War) military establishments. Major research institutes have been monitoring this growing problem, but they have not had much historical depth to inform their work.
This provides a dual assignment for environmental history studies:
first, to provide a detailed understanding of the ecological consequences of war and militarization over many centuries and in all world regions, and second, to work with contemporary researchers to integrate past perspectives with today's challenges. This course is designed primarily to survey our long history, but week by week we will also be explicitly aware of the contemporary applications of our historical study.