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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Linda L Nash
HSTAA 221
Seattle Campus

Environmental History of the U.S.

Surveys the relationship between nature and human history, including the impact of the non-human environment on American history and the environmental effects of colonization, urbanization, and consumerism; the cultural construction of nature in different eras and its social implications; the sources and limits of modern environmental politics. Offered: jointly with ENVIR 221; A.

Class description

In this class, we will move beyond traditional historical frameworks that consider only human actions and human society to ask what role the natural environments of North America have played in American history. We will study how the history of politics, society and culture has been connected to history of disease, weeds, forests, fields, rivers, and air. Chronologically, the course begins with Native American societies before 1492 and ends in the late 20th century (ca. 1500-2000). Through lectures, readings, and discussions, the course surveys the social and environmental dimensions of European colonization, industrialization and urbanization, American imperial expansion, and mass consumerism. We will also study how "nature” has been defined and represented by Americans at different moments (e.g., in landscape painting, National Parks, and Disney films), and debate what difference those representations have made. Finally we will consider how and why the modern environmental movement emerged in the decades after World War II, why it took the particular shape that it did, and whose interests it has represented.

Student learning goals

To understand what it means to think historically and to be able to contextualize specific events, decisions, and developments in US history.

To describe in broad terms how environmental conditions and American ideas about nature have been intertwined with US social, cultural, and political history.

To effectively read, critique, and discuss historical/social science scholarship (secondary historical texts).

To analyze primary historical documents.

To write an historically informed essay on the subject of "place."

General method of instruction

Lectures and discussion sections

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites.

Class assignments and grading

Course requirements (subject to change) include participation in discussion sections (20%), an in-class midterm exam (20%), a 10-page paper with mandatory rough draft (30%), and an in-class final exam (30%).

See above.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Linda L Nash
Date: 05/10/2013