History, Geography and Environmental Studies 460
American Environmental History

Big Oak, Picnic Point

Environmental history studies the changing relationships between human beings and the natural world through time—probably a very different approach to history from what you studied in high school. Despite being numbered at the 400-level, this course is intended as an introduction to this exciting and still relatively unfamiliar field of scholarship, with no prerequisites. It assumes little or no background knowledge of American history, geography, or environmental studies, and offers a general survey that can be valuable for students interested in any of these fields, from entry-level undergraduates through advanced graduate students. Although the course is intended to be challenging, it is also meant to be fun: any student willing to attend lectures, do the readings, and work hard should be able to enjoy and do well in it. Our central premise throughout 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 essential if one hopes to understand contemporary environmental issues.



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Please note that for all handouts listed below, the HTML version is more attractive for onscreen viewing, complete with a relevant banner illustration on top, whereas the PDF version is much more densely packed and is designed to be printable on a single sheet of paper. These handouts typically become available at least a few days before a lecture is delivered, though occasionally they may get revised very close to the time of the actual lecture.

Handout #1: Ghost Landscapes: Getting Started with Environmental History pdf html

Christopher Wells' website and video about Car Country: http://www.carcountrythebook.com

Kate Wersan's Tips for Reading Christopher Wells's Car Country pdf

Cronon Foreword, "Far More Than Just a Machine," for Christopher Wells's Car Country pdf

Handout #2: A Path Out of Town: Reading the Madison Landscape pdf html

Handout #3: The World That Coyote & Raven Made pdf html

Handout #4: Migration, Disease, & Death pdf html

Handout #5: Co-Invasion: Some Bigger Creaturespdf html

Handout #6: Selling Animalspdf html

Handout #7: A World of Fields and Fences pdf html

Handout #8: The Flow of the River pdf html

Handout #9: Mountain Gloom, Mountain Glory pdf html

Romanticism Readings: pdf


Place Paper Assignment

Place Paper assignment described:html

Click here for a collection of past student papers written to fulfill the final "place paper" assignment in 460.

Kelly King's Tips for Successful Place Papers:html
This handout was prepared by TA Kelly King to help students in her discussion sections in 2005, and I've decided to make it available again.

Tour Times for Wisconsin Historical Society and UW Archives:

Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State St. (across from Humanities Building); meet on first floor:
(dates and times to be posted here)

UW-Madison Archives, 4th Floor, Steenbock Library, 550 Babcock Dr.:
(dates and times to be posted here)


Other Resources:

Essay: William Cronon, "Kennecott Journey: The Paths out of Town," in Wiliam Cronon, George Miles, Jay Gitlin, eds., Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1992), 28-51. pdf

Romanticism Readings: pdf

Sample Midterm Exam Essay Questions, Spring 2015
Midterm Exampdf
Sample Answer to Question #1pdf
Sample Answer to Question #2pdf
Sample Answer to Question #3pdf
Sample Answer to Question #4pdf

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Page revision date: 22-Sep-2015