ENVIRON 237 - Global Environmental History
Fall 2023, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Program in the Environment (ENVIRON)
Department: SNE Program in the Environment
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/28/23 - 12/6/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


This course explores the origins of the contemporary planetary crisis through a five hundred-year history of capitalism, colonialism, and technological innovation. We will investigate how flows of people, plants, animals, ideas, machines, and germs transformed landscapes on every continent and how these changes in the land in turn shaped the history of empires, nations, and everyday life. We will debate the relative importance of coal and cotton in fueling the English industrial revolution and ponder whether attitudes towards nature expressed in Chinese landscape paintings reveal clues to the country’s “three thousand-year history of unsustainable development.” Through the lens of environmental justice, we will analyze the interaction of global commodity markets with changing climatic patterns to determine the causes of famine in colonial territories and assess the differential vulnerabilities of particular bodies to the toxic wastes of modern industry. This is an ironic history in which unprecedented increases in life expectancy, material comforts, political freedoms, and scientific understanding threatened to destroy the environmental relationships on which such progress depended.

Ultimately, we seek to understand how humans became the primary drivers of change in the Earth System; thus, this course offers a history of a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene. This is an introduction to the vibrant field of environmental history, which combines traditional historical methods with ecological thinking. It is open to all students, requires no prior coursework or knowledge and welcomes students from both the humanities and natural sciences. Evaluation is based on classroom participation, weekly reading discussion posts, a few short papers, and a longer final independent research project. Readings average about seventy-pages per week and all texts will posted on Canvas.

Course Requirements:

Weekly reading discussion posts, a few short papers, and a longer final independent research project

Intended Audience:

All students in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences

Class Format:



ENVIRON 237 - Global Environmental History
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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CourseProfile (Atlas)

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CourseProfile (Atlas)