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Master Syllabus

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Administrative Unit: History and Political Science Department
Course Prefix and Number: HIST 352
Course Title: *American Environmental History
Number of:
Credit Hours 3
Lecture Hours 3
Lab Hours 0
Catalog Description: Analysis of American 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, attitudes, traditions, institutions and technologies have reshaped and have been reshaped by ecosystems. It traces American Indian ecology, agricultural land use, natural resource conservation, urban pollution and modern environmental movements. It offers special attention to social constructions of the environment such as romantic mysticism, utilitarian instrumentalism, and ecological science. 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:

The required text must be assigned and supplemented with a minimum of two recommended texts. Additional primary and secondary sources may be assigned as well.

Other appropriate scholarly monographs may be assigned as well.

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 Objectives
  • To recognize the main currents of U.S. history in regard to environmental issues.
  • To explore the interrelationships between the ecological imagination and natural resources in the U.S.
  • To compare and contrast various historiographical perspectives on the American environment.
    Measurable Learning
  • Describe the significant people, places and events of American environmental history.
  • Analyze definitive factors that shaped American Indian concepts of nature and its value.
  • Explain the Columbia exchange between the Americas and Europe and its ecological legacies.
  • Differentiate the major crops, techniques and impacts of antebellum agriculture in the North and the South.
  • Describe the transformation of the environment after the Industrial Revolution in the U.S.
  • Study the works of art, literature and philosophy indicative of environmental ethics during the nineteenth century.
  • Analyze the factors contributing to progressive policies of conservation, preservation, and land management.
  • Describe the influence of green political movements on environmental regulation and justice in modern times.
  • Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and trends in the historiography of American environmentalism.
    Topical Outline: 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., midterms, finals, team reports, quizzes, research papers). It must demand a minimum of 1,000 pages of required text reading, 1,000 words of type-written work, and a consideration of the range and variance of historical scholarship. Finally, it must develop student skills and abilities for researching diverse sources of knowledge and organizing findings through synthesis.

  • 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: 30

    Library Resources:

    Online databases are available at You may access them using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

    Prepared by: Brad Lookingbill Date: January 1, 2013
    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 objectives and cover the subjects listed in the topical outline. 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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