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Master Syllabus

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Administrative Unit: Physical and Biological Sciences Department
Course Prefix and Number: ENVS 352
Course Title: *American Environmental History
Number of:
Credit Hours 3
Lecture Hours 3
Lab Hours 0
Catalog Description:

Analysis of America’s environmental history from the colonial period to the present.  This course considers the interrelationships between human society and the natural world in different bioregions of North America, focusing upon how ideas, institutions, and technologies have evolved over time.  It traces American Indian ecology, agricultural land use, natural resource conservation, and recent environmental activism.  It offers special attention to the significance of wilderness in the American past. Cross-listed as ENVS 352. Prerequisite: junior standing.

Prerequisite(s) / Corequisite(s): Junior standing.
Course Rotation for Day Program: Occasional offering.
Text(s): Most current editions of the following:

One of the primary source texts must be assigned and supplemented with at least two secondary source texts.  Additional primary and secondary sources may be assigned as well.  Use the most current editions.

One of the following primary source texts is required:


Major Problems in American Environmental History
By Carolyn Merchant, ed. (Houghton Mifflin)
American Environmental History: An Introduction
By Carolyn Merchant (Columbia University Press)
Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History
By Ted Steinberg (Oxford University Press)
Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas
By Donald Worster (Cambridge)
First Along the River: A Brief History of the U.S. Environmental Movement
By Benjamin Kline (Acada)
Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World
By J. R. McNeill (Norton)
Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900
By Alfred W. Crosby (Cambridge )
Course Learning Outcomes
  1. Describe the significant people, places, and events of American environmental history.
  2. Analyze the Columbian exchange between the Americas and Europe and its ecological legacies.
  3. Explain the environmental impacts of the Industrial Revolution on urban and rural communities.
  4. Analyze the progressive policies of conservation, preservation, and land management.
  5. Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and trends in the historiography of American environmentalism.
Major Topics/Skills to be Covered:

Because the course represents an upper level history elective, it bears a distinctive responsibility for teaching advanced knowledge within the discipline.  It must be distinguished as an advanced course by three structural components: extensive reading, intensive writing, and historiographical thinking.  It must require advanced students to complete both in class and out of class projects (i.e., exams, quizzes, papers). The course reading load should be at least 1000 pages; the course writing assignments should total c5000 words. Finally, it must develop student skills and abilities for researching diverse sources of knowledge.

  • The Ecological Imagination
  • Native Environmentalism
  • Proliferation of Fur Trading
  • New England Fields and Forests
  • The Tobacco South
  • King Cotton and Soil Exhaustion
  • Energizing the Industrial Revolution
  • Transcendentalism and the Romantic Landscape
  • Conquering the Prairies and Grasslands
  • Extermination of Wildlife
  • Preservation and Conservation
  • The National Parks
  • A Hydraulic Civilization
  • Metropolitan Waste and Sprawl
  • The Greening of America
  • Environmental Protection

Recommended maximum class size for this course: 35

Library Resources:

Online databases are available at the Columbia College Stafford Library.  You may access them using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

Prepared by: Brad Lookingbill Date: November 30, 2016
NOTE: The intention of this master course syllabus is to provide an outline of the contents of this course, as specified by the faculty of Columbia College, regardless of who teaches the course, when it is taught, or where it is taught. Faculty members teaching this course for Columbia College are expected to facilitate learning pursuant to the course learning outcomes and cover the subjects listed in the Major Topics/Skills to be Covered section. However, instructors are also encouraged to cover additional topics of interest so long as those topics are relevant to the course's subject. The master syllabus is, therefore, prescriptive in nature but also allows for a diversity of individual approaches to course material.

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