American Environmental History
The seminar is a one-semester introduction to some of the most interesting recent literature of American environmental history, read principally for the theories and methodologies it can offer scholars and scientists as well as its implications for contemporary environmental politics and management. The seminar assumes no previous coursework in the field, and students with a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines are encouraged to participate. We will read a number of the most important works that have been produced in the field during the past twenty years, with an eye to exploring the different themes and methods that have shaped this body of scholarship, trying to assess how the field has evolved and where it might be headed in the future. Our goal will be to evaluate these texts with a critical but sympathetic eye, trying to discover ways in which their approaches might be helpful to our own work. At the same time, we'll use this literature to think about the more general process of conceiving, conducting, and writing research about the past (whether within the disciplines of history, geography, ecology, environmental studies, natural resource management, literature, and others) trying to gain as much practical wisdom as we can about how to do theses and dissertations. We will also talk about strategies for teaching this material in the undergraduate classroom.
During the fall semester of 2013, the seminar will meet from 1:00-4:00pm on Tuesdays in 202 Bradley Memorial Hall, home of UW-Madison's Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE).
Application form for Fall 2012 (due 4/14/12): or
(This is provided purely for illustrative purposes, though the Fall 2013 version seminar will also focus on environmental history more generally, and will not require a large group project of the entire class. As with the Fall 2012 syllabus linked here, students will be encouraged to develop their own research topics as part of their work for the seminar.)
PDF: (optimized for printing):
Email Announcements Sent to Class List Server:
Cronon, "Kennecott Journey" -
Learning to Do Historical Research: A Primer for Environmental Historians and Others
This large website was the final product of this seminar's work during Fall 2008. Please take the time to peruse it. The Fall 2010 version of the seminar will create a comparable product on the environmental history of food and agriculture in the United States from colonial times to the present.
Examples of Online Resources for Helping Students Learn to Do Historical Research:
Bowdoin College Guide to Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: http://academic.bowdoin.edu/WritingGuides/
Yale University Senior Essay Handbook: http://www.yale.edu/history/senior_essay.html
Zachary Schrag's Guidelines for History Students: http://www.schrag.info/ (look under Guidelines for History Students)
Historian's Whole Earth Catalogs for Environmental History (from 1990s)
In the 1990s, students in my graduate environmental history seminars worked together in teams on a class assignment requiring them to visit major research libraries on the UW-Madison campus and produce written guides to those collections. These guides sought to identify key sources of interest to environmental historians while also providing an overview of how each library was organized with tips for how best to navigate it.
Although these reports are now significantly out of date, especially since they largely predate the digital revolution, and although the documents undoubtedly include a few errors, they still contain valuable information and are worth perusing. These PDF files have been scanned from hard-copy originals and OCRed, so should be searchable, but don't count on the accuracy of the OCR text.
Historian's Whole Earth Catalog for 1993 (1.8MB)
Historian's Whole Earth Catalog for 1994 (1.65MB)