CC 300 CX - American Environmental History

3 Credits
Professor Kercsmar
TR 10:30-11:45 am
Cross-listed with HIST 492 AX.
Fulfills humanities history requirement. 

This course examines the relationship between nature and society in American history. We will consider topics such as the decimation of bison, the rise of Chicago, the history of natural disasters, and the environmental consequences of urbanization and industrialization. Throughout the course, we will wrestle with three main questions. First, how have various groups of Americans interacted with nature, and how has nature, in turn, shaped American society? Second, how have ideas about nature differed among peoples, places, and times, and how do the meanings people give to nature inform their cultural and political activities? Third, how have these historical forces shaped the American landscape and its human and natural communities?

 Our central premise will be that much of the familiar terrain of American history looks very different when seen in environmental context, and that one can learn a great deal about history, geography, and the environment by studying them together. All too often, historians study the human past without attending to nature. All too often, scientists study nature without attending to human history. We will try to discover the value of integrating these different perspectives, and argue that the humanistic perspectives of historians and geographers are absolutely crucial if one hopes to understand contemporary environmental issues.