Environmental history, in its broadest sense, is the study of the relationships between people and the world around them. These relationships can be intimate (the preparation of passenger pigeon pie for dinner, for example), or much larger in scale (big dams, nuclear weapons testing). In this course, we’ll consider environmental interactions large and small as we trace the changing ways Americans have shaped—and thought about—the places where they live and work. In addition to exploring the history of national parks, preservation, conservation, and wilderness, we’ll pay special attention to the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world; after all, neither natural resources nor notions of nature stay put. Environmental history can also help us think through the different ways that people interact with each other, especially when natural resources are involved, so we’ll also explore debates over what nature is, who it is for, and how it should be used—from the colonial period to the present. We’ll read widely this block; our course texts explore subjects ranging from Native and settler ecology in colonial New England to stuffed birds in high fashion in late nineteenth- century New York to anti-nuclear activism at the Nevada Test Site in the 1980s and post-apocalyptic fiction set in (future) Colorado.

HY212/EV273: American Environmental History Fall 2018 Block 2 syllabus here.


Red Rock Canyon Open Space, 5 December 2016. Photo by Amy Kohout.