Emails Sent to 460 Class List Server
Date / Time / Location Information for Final Exam and Review Session, Sent 12/11/12:
Hi, everyone. I'm writing to pass along some crucial information about our final exam and review session. Please note these details on your calendar, since you could easily find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time if you don't.
We were unable to get a room for our review session at 7:00pm on Monday, December 17, as originally scheduled. Instead, we will start the review session 15 minutes later, at 7:15pm, in our regular lecture room, 3650 Humanities. We have it reserved until 8:45pm, but I suspect that we'll be done with the meeting by 8:30pm or even a little sooner.
Our final exam is on Wednesday morning, December 19, from 10:05am-12:05pm, NOT in our regular lecture room, but instead half-way across campus in 125 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive. It's a good 10-minute walk from the Humanities Building to Ag Hall, so please don't come to the wrong place!
Here's a link to help you find Ag Hall on the UW campus map in case you've never been there:
Again...please don't lose track of this information! The last thing you want to be doing on the day of the final exam is wandering around at the wrong end of campus trying to figure out where we are.
Optional Dust Bowl Film to View, Sent 10/31/12:
Hi, everyone. As I said in lecture today, next week's reading in 460 is Donald Worster's Dust Bowl, and our conversation in section will focus on the question "what caused the Dust Bowl?"
Although this is *not* a requirement of the course, you might want to consider watching the New Deal documentary film by Pare Lorentz entitled Plow That Broke the Plains, which you might find a valuable supplement to Worster's book. The film is only 25 minutes long, and is widely regarded as one of the most important documentaries in the early history of that cinematic genre. Commissioned by Roosevelt's Resettlement Administration as a propaganda film on behalf of New Deal policies on the Plains, it's a fascinating primary document of how New Dealers viewed this environmental event.
Here's the link:
For background on this controversial film, see
If you're interested in Lorentz's work, he also made a 30-minute documentary about flooding on the Mississippi River and the TVA:
Section for Week of 10/22, Sent 10/18/12
This is a reminder that we'll be devoting next week's discussion to making sure everyone is well on track with their final place papers. Toward that end, we'll be asking everyone to do the following:
1) Come prepared to describe the place you've chosen for your paper and to explain why you've selected it. You should also specify the particular environmental historical theme(s) you believe your place is well suited to illustrate, so that you can use your place as a way of opening up and exploring themes from the course, and use the course to understand the environmental history of your place.
2) We also ask that you bring to section 1-2 primary documents that cast light on how your place has changed historically. Remember, pp 4-5 of the course syllabus give you lots of suggestions for places you can go to look for documents relating to your place. Monday's lecture and the tour you'll be taking at the Historical Society next week should also help with this. Old photographs, maps, and aerial photographs (the first two bullet items in the lower half of page four of the syllabus) may be especially suggestive if you're still just getting started on this project, but you're welcome to bring *any* document that seems to you to be revealing of past environmental change in your place.
Have a good weekend, and we'll see you next week.
Midterm Reminders, Sent 10/15/12
Hi, everyone. Just in case there's any confusion, I want to confirm that we ARE having a lecture in 460 today at the usual time, from 2:30-3:45 in 3650 Humanities. It's an important transitional lecture as we move toward the second half of the course (as were last week's lectures), and, also like last week's lectures, everything in it is fair game to appear on the midterm exam.
Remember, our review session for the midterm is tonight from 7:00-8:30pm, in 3650 Humanities. And the midterm itself is Wednesday during our regular meeting time (2:30-3:45pm) in our regular classroom (yes, you guessed it: 3650 Humanities).
Finally, don't forget that there are special tours next week of the Wisconsin Historical Society collections to help you research your place papers, and you should make sure to fit one of them into your schedule:
See you this afternoon!
Important Details for Midterm Exam and Place Paper, Sent 10/6/12
Here are a number of important details relating to History / Geography / Environmental Studies 460 for the next couple weeks. Please read all of them carefully and note them on your calendar.
1) I've loaded all the note sheets and other handouts for all lectures leading up to the midterm, and also the lecture following the exam, which is an introduction to campus libraries to help with your place paper. There's a color version of the graphs I'll be handing out in black and white for Monday's lecture, so you might want to download that one in addition to the class handout.
2) Remember that the review session for the midterm exam will be on the evening of Monday, October 15, from 7:00-8:30pm in 3650 Humanities.
3) The midterm exam will be held in class on Wednesday, October 17. There is a sample version of the midterm from the fall semester of 2008 on the course web page, along with examples of three excellent blue book essays that earned grades of "A" that semester. You might want to review these to get a sense of the integration of well-organized arguments and evidence that you should strive to achieve in your own blue book. (Students that semester read a book by historian of technology David Nye entitled Consuming Power: A Social History of American Energies, and so had more information to use in answering the essay question about the history of energy use than you would.)
4) You will get more out of the review session--and more out of this week's discussion section, which is intended to help you prepare for the midterm exam--if you do some studying ahead of time. For section this week, at least look over all the note sheets from lectures you've attended thus far. For the review session, try to have done significantly more studying than that. It can be very helpful to study for the exam with other students in the class, so feel free to use your section's email list server to organize group study sessions. (It can be helpful to do these in a room with blackboards in it so you can assemble lists of keywords and construct time lines.)
5) We will not be holding sections during the week of the midterm exam, so use that extra time to work on your place paper.
6) The lecture on Monday, October 22, is intended as an invitation to explore UW-Madison's many campus libraries in greater depth than you may have done in the past, again to help you get deeper into your place paper. We'll devote discussion sections that week to detailed conversations about your place papers, so please plan to come to section that week prepared to report on how your paper is going, any research problems you're encountering, and any questions you have about how to integrate the themes of the course into the history of your chosen place.
7) Finally, we have also arranged with the staff of the Wisconsin Historical Society to offer special tours of the Society's collections that are especially helpful for the place papers for this course. The scheduled tours (each an hour long) are as follows:
If you have any questions or concerns about any of this information, please come to discussion section prepared to ask about them.
See you Monday!
Be Aware of the Dangers of Plagiarism When Writing Your Papers for 460, Sent 9/18/12
One of the most basic rules of scholarship is remembering to identify your sources and acknowledge your debts when writing a formal paper. Failure to do that is called plagiarism, and represents a serious ethical lapse, for which there are harsh penalties.
Since you'll be turning in your first paper assignment for 460 next week, we want to take this opportunity to remind you to quote documents accurately and cite your sources properly for everything you write in this or any other class. The syllabus contains some helpful links for web resources where you can refresh your memory about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, and we'd encourage you to peruse those before turning in your paper next week. I've pasted the relevant section of the syllabus below, and have also attached a summary document from UW-Madison's Writing Center about plagiarism. (The original source for that document is: http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Acknowledging_Sources.pdf.)
For this assignment, since the main document you're citing is the one-page list from Higginson, you can simply cite it once at the beginning of the paper and don't have to keep footnoting it over and over again. But if you use any other sources (for instance, Changes in the Land), be sure to cite them and indicate the page references from which you're pulling quotations or references.
This assignment is SO brief that it won't require many citations, but your place paper will be a different matter entirely. That's why we want to encourage you to start thinking about this issue now.
Writing Center document attached to email downloadable from: http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Acknowledging_Sources.pdf
Excerpt from 460 syllabus about plagiarism:
IMPORTANT: BEWARE OF PLAGIARISM!
It is very important for you to keep track of, acknowledge, and be respectful of the sources you use in writing your place paper. The Web has made it so easy for students to copy and paste information they find online that it may be tempting for you simply to paste some of this material into what write. Don’t EVER do this. Plagiarism is a very serious ethical infraction—pretending that someone else’s work is your own—and will get you into serious trouble if it’s discovered. To learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it, consult the following online resources:
Description of First Paper Assignment, Sent 9/17/12
The first paper assignment for 460 is fully explained in the attached document. Please read it carefully before discussion section this week so you can ask your section leader any questions you may have about it.
Remember, you should not start working on this paper until you have completed your reading of Changes in the Land, so be sure to leave plenty of time for reading the book, thinking about the thesis you want to support using evidence from the attached document, drafting your paper, revising it, and finally submitting at the start of your discussion section during the week of September 24.
Although the paper counts for only 5% of your grade, we'd like you to make it your best possible work. Concentrate especially on how well you support your argument using evidence from this document and from other readings and lectures from the course, and how well you write. We'd like the best prose you're able to create.
Good luck...and enjoy!
Laptops Permitted in Section Next Week, and First Written Assignment, Sent 9/15/12
I want to confirm for the entire course what some sections have already heard from their section leaders: although we don't ordinarily permit students in 460 to bring laptops or other screen-based devices to discussion sections, we're making an exception this coming week because of the large number of PDF readings that are assigned in the syllabus.
It's often better to print out readings that will be discussed heavily in class to make them easier to consult, but we're not requiring you to do so in this case because so many pages are involved. So you're welcome to bring a laptop or tablet computer to section for next week only so you'll be able to consult the readings if that's the way you'd prefer to do so.
While I'm writing, let me also remind you that your first written paper assignment will be due in section during the week of September 24. We'll distribute that assignment to you on Monday, since you should not work on it until after you've completed your reading of Changes in the Land for next week's section. You'll have the assignment by the time your section next meets, and your section leader will be able to answer any questions you may have about it.
See you Monday!
Downloading Course Readings from Electronic Library Reserves, Sent 9/12/12 (revised version)
(Thanks to Bridgett Molinar for providing a simpler way of accessing these.)
I've had several questions from students who are still having trouble finding the readings for next week's 460 sections. Here's what you need to keep in mind.
1) This class does NOT make any use of Learn@UW. You will find nothing at that location for 460.
2) Our most important class resources--the syllabus, note sheets, and many other helpful materials for the course--are available from our course web page, which is located at http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460.htm. You should bookmark it, but you can also always find it again by googling "cronon 460."
3) The syllabus is your master guide to all weekly assignments in the course. You should study it carefully. A digital version in both HTML and PDF format is linked from the course web page.
4) Finally, a few of the readings for the course--including everything for NEXT week--are available via the Teaching tab of your "My UW" portal. Here's how to get them:
I hope this helps.
OK to Switch Sections if Necessary in Order to Attend Tour This Week, Sent 9/11/12
Hi, everyone. This is a reminder that we'll be doing campus tours in our 460 sections this week as a way to start thinking about your final place papers. Please don't miss section if you can possibly avoid doing so, and please show up ON TIME to the place designated by your section leader (your regular classroom if you haven't heard otherwise).
And IF by chance you absolutely cannot make your regular section this week, it is OK for just this one week to go on the tour with some other section. If you MUST do this, try to do so with your regular section leader, since different section leaders will be taking quite different tours of campus. But if you cannot even go on one of your regular section leader's tours, it's better to go on SOME tour with any discussion leader than to take no tour at all.
See you in lecture tomorrow!
Request for McBurney Visas, Sent 9/9/12:
If you are a student enrolled in 460 who has a McBurney Center accommodation, please email to me (and ideally to your TA as well) a digital copy of your McBurney Visa. If you can't easily forward a digital copy, please make two photocopies and give one each to me and your TA. We'd very much like to have these sometime this week.
Call for Applications to Honors/Grad Section 301 of 460, Sent 9/4/12:
There are a few seats still available in the special section of History / Geography / Environmental Studies 460 (Section 301) that is reserved for Honors undergraduates and graduate students. (I hold these seats open until the start of the semester in order to be able to assign them to students who have a special need for this particular section.)
The Honors/Grad section (which I myself lead) meets on Wednesday mornings for a special extended period from 8:30-9:45am. If you're registered for 460 in a different section and would like to be considered for admission to this one, please send me an email by no later than 6pm on Wednesday explaining why the Honors/Grad section is especially appropriate for your own needs, and I'll make decisions about admitting a few more students into the section at that time.
You should know by Thursday whether you've been admitted. In the meantime, please plan for this week to attend the section in which you're already registered, since most students seeking admission to the Honors/Grad probably cannot be accommodated.
Thanks, and I'll see you on Wednesday in lecture.
Apology for Badly Proofread Earlier Message, Sent 9/3/12:
This is a quick follow-up note to apologize for the duplicate passage in the email below about switching sections...a nice demonstration of the dangers associated with copying and pasting, and a reminder that we should ALL proofread before submitting our work. Please forgive me!
This also enables me to tell you that all major emails I send out to the classlist are available for your reference at
Apologies again for the duplicate email, and I'll see you soon.
Instructions for First Week of Classes, Sent 9/3/12:
Please read the following carefully so you'll be ready for the first time we meet for lecture, on Wednesday, September 5, at 2:30pm in 3650 Humanities--or for your first discussion section, if it occurs before that lecture.
SECTIONS WILL MEET THIS WEEK:
COURSE WEBSITE AND SYLLABUS:
THE PLACE PAPER:
SWITCHING SECTIONS (be sure to read this now):
We're looking forward to seeing you soon. Welcome aboard!
Instructions about Final Place Paper, Sent 7/4/12:
I'm sending this message to all students currently registered for History / Geography / Environmental Studies 460, "American Environmental History." Although I'll be in touch with you again later in the summer when I've finished revising the syllabus for the course, I didn't want to delay any longer in encouraging you to give some thought now to your final "place paper" for the course, since some of you may want to do some work on that paper even before the fall semester starts--especially if you happen to be located right now in the place you'll be writing about!
Basically, this assignment--which most students regard as a highlight of the course, and which has generated many of the best papers I've ever read in an undergraduate course--asks you to take a place you know well and write an environmental history of how people have lived in and changed its landscape over the years.
There will be a full description of the assignment in the syllabus, and I'll let you know when you can download that document from my website, but the place paper itself is described in full at:
Here's why I'm writing you about this even before the semester begins.
The sooner you can identify the place about which you'll be writing, the better able you'll be to integrate material from the course into what you have to say about it, and the greater the likelihood that you may be able to spend time researching, exploring, and thinking about that place before you write about it. It's quite possible that many of you are currently located in or near the place you'll eventually choose to write about—many students select a place in their home town or in a favorite summer location—and if so, you might well want to do some thinking about that place while you're still near it. Walking around your chosen place, taking photographs, talking with people, perusing family scrapbooks, and perhaps even seeing if you can locate a few documents about it (maps, photos, newspaper clippings) in a local library or historical society may be much easier to do where you are now than would be true in Madison.
You are certainly not required to start gathering thoughts and documents for your place paper now, but since many students eventually find themselves making a special trip during the semester to do just these things, I thought it might be helpful to let you know about the assignment now in case you'd like to start thinking about it before the semester begins. Again: you will find lots of information about the place paper in the syllabus and on the place paper page I've mentioned above, so please look at that section sooner rather than later if you happen now to be in a place you think you might want to write about from an environmental history point of view. Although there will be a few very minor changes in detail for the assignment as you'll receive it in the fall (mainly having to do with due dates and rough drafts), what you'll read on the links above includes everything you'd need to know if you want to start thinking about your place paper assignment this summer.
We hope you'll use your place paper as an opportunity to hone your research skills. Toward that end, we encourage you to start reading and exploring our special course website on "Learning Historical Research," which you'll find at http://www.williamcronon.net/researching/index.htm
By the way, emails like this one are archived on the following web page if you ever need to look at them again:
Thanks for taking the time to read this message. I'll send along further details about the course--especially the list of textbooks if you want to order them ahead of time--as soon as I've finalized the syllabus, probably by next week at the latest.
Enjoy the rest of the summer, and...Happy Fourth of July!
Page revision date: 11-Dec-2012