HIST 3991: Environmental History

This course examines the reciprocal relations between humans and non-human nature through a historiographic perspective. The course addresses the changing impact of human populations, their technology and their ideas on the physical environment, as well as how climate, topography, plants and animals have enabled, constrained, and altered the path of human societies. A North American context is emphasized.


After successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the field of environmental history.
  • Discuss significant themes in environmental history.
  • Explain how historical events have been influenced by the natural environment.
  • Explain how human activity has altered the natural environment over time.
  • Critically read, analyze, and respond in writing to selected primary literature in the field of environmental history.
  • Effectively communicate in writing and in online discussions critical analyses and evaluations of the environmental history literature.

Course outline

  • Unit 1
    • Topic 1: Introduction to Environmental History
    • Topic 2: Indigenous Environmental Change
    • Topic 3: Ecological Imperialism
  • Unit 2
    • Topic 1: Resettlement
    • Topic 2: Commodifying Natural Resources--The Fur Trade
    • Topic 3: Agricultural Development--Technology and Power
  • Unit 3
    • Topic 1: The Conservation Movement
    • Topic 2: The Moral Ecology of Parks
    • Topic 3: Urban Nature
  • Unit 4
    • Topic 1: Consuming Nature--Energy and Consumption
    • Topic 2: The Modern Environmental Movement
    • Topic 3: Seeing Global Warming

Required text and materials

Steinberg, T. (2018). Down to earth: Nature’s role in American history (4th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780190864422 Type: Textbook


To complete this course successfully, you must obtain a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course and 50% or higher on the mandatory Final Project.

HIST 3991 Coursework Weight
Online Discussions 12%
Assignment 1: Unit One 12%
Assignment 2: Unit Two 12%
Assignment 3: Unit Three 12%
Assignment 4: Unit Four 12%
Final Project: Proposal 5%
Final Project: Research Essay * 35%


Open Learning Faculty Member

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Primary communication is through Blackboard’s “Mail” tool or by phone. You will receive the necessary contact information when you start your course.

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