Environment and History (HIST*2250) | College of Arts

Environment and History (HIST*2250)

Code and section: HIST*2250*DE

Term: Winter 2019

Instructor: Susan Nance


Course Synopsis:

Using North America as a case study, this course provides an introduction to the field of environmental history, and a historical perspective to human existence in and interaction with the natural world. It examines the ways the physical environment, weather patterns, non-human animals, and plant life have shaped human life, as well as the causes and effects of human-induced modification of the natural world. It also asks students to consider the evolution of attitudes about and depiction of non-human life and the environment, as well as the evolving arguments of conservation/environmental advocates and their opponents over time.

Learning Outcomes:

HIST 2250 DE trains students in:

  1. broad knowledge of North American environmental history
  2. thematic interpretations of that history by way of various concepts and the tension between them, including: anthropocene, human and animal, nature/natural and wild/wilderness, pollution, progress, exponential growth theory, and eco-terrorism vs. environmental justice.
  3. how to communicate research findings and syntheses of assigned reading to peers
  4. the practice of developing one’s writing skills by frequent creation of short pieces of writing on topics relevant to students and on a deadline
  5. how to conduct secondary and primary source research in online archives and libraries

Methods of Evaluation and Weights:

Initial log in & webquest discussion - 5%
Online discussions (2 @ 10% each) - 20%
Digital primary source analysis & online presentation - 15%
Periodic short essays (2 @ 15% each) - 30%
Final examination (take-home) - 30%

Texts and/or Resources Required:

  • Carolyn Merchant, American Environmental History: An Introduction (New York:Columbia University Press, 2007) ISBN-13: 978-0771061172    – please purchase
  • Neil S. Forkey, Canadians and the Natural Environment (Univ. of Toronto Press, 2013) – available on Courselink eReserve
  • Adam Minter, Junkyard Planet: Travel in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015).  ISBN-13: 978-160819793X    – please purchase
  • Plus other articles, films, and digital archives available on Courselink eReserve.

Please note: This is a preliminary web course description only. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description. The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester.


The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.