Introduction to Global Environmental History

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2HS2014

Semester to which offered: Winter 2019

Course coordinator and team: Dhirendra Datt Dangwal

Email of Course coordinator: dhirendra[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: none

Course Objective:

  1. To make students aware of how historians are studying Global Environmental history.
  2. To make them to understand the process of environmental transformation in modern times.
  3. To help them to identify global environmntal issues.
  4. Make students aware of the context in which ideas of environmentalism emerged and gave rise to environmental movements globally.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Differentiate between pre-industrial and industrial use of natural resources.
  2. Understand how capitalism and colonialism transformed human-nature relationship globally.
  3. Show an awareness of the historical context that gave rise to environmental consciousness.
  4. Demonstrate ability to critically engage with terms like sustainability, environmental degradation, ecology, wilderness, conservation, etc.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:


Theme one: Growth of Population and Use of Natural Resources since 1500

This module deals with a general theme of population growth and its implication for natural resources

Theme Two: Preindustrial Use of Natural resources

This module deals with pre-industrial use of natural resources and traditional community practices of managing common property resources. The sub-modules are:

  1. Woodlands of Japan, 1050-1670
  2. Agricultural Expansion in China under the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911
  3. The Little Ice age and European agriculture
  4. Indigenous Americans and their economy
  5. Community and resources: debates over use of common property resources

Theme Three: Capitalism, Colonialism and Nature

The module deals with expansion of Europeans to various continents and its environmental impact.

  1. Ecological Imperialism: Colonisation of America
  2. Introduction of Plantation and Ranching in Tropical America
  3. Politics of soil erosion and conservation in Africa

Theme Four: Intensification of Global Resource Extraction in 20th century

This module explains pressure on natural resources in the 20th century.

  1. An Unending Frontier: retreat of forests and grasslands
  2. iInsatiable Appetite: Deforestation in tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia and Latin America

Theme Five: Urban Explosion and Environmental Crisis

The module deals with urban environmental problems.

  1. Towns and Cities under early industrialization in Europe
  2. Water and air pollution, generation and disposal of waste
  3. Hinterland and cities

Theme Six: Changes in Hydrosphere

The module discusses how state attempted to manage water resources.

  1. Water: Plenty to Scarcity
  2. Declining Water Qality
  3. Large Dams: The Tennessee Valley Project in USA and Three George dam in China

Theme Seven: Perception of nature in different cultures and societies

The module discusses early ideas about environment.

  1. i. The historical roots of our ecological crisis: religion and environment
  2. ii. The Back-to-land movement and romanticism in Europe
  3. iii. Growth of the Wilderness Ideas in America
  4. iv. Scientific forestry and conservation of forests
  5. v. Wildlife conservation and tourism: America and Africa

Theme Eight: Environmentalism: Ideas and movements

This module is about environmentalism and politics around environmental issues.

  1. Environmental movements in the west
  2. The Green Party
  3. Environmentalism of the Poor
  4. Radical environmental ideas: biocentrism, eco-feminism, etc.

Theme Nine: World Environmental Politics

This module is about global environmental politics.

  1. Environmental Organizations with global reach: WWF, IUCN
  2. The Earth Summits
  3. Politics around climatic change


Essentail readings:

  • Donald Worster, ed. The Ends to Earth, CUP, 1988.
  • J. F. Richards, The Unending Frontiers, University of California Press, 2003.
  • R. P. Tucker, Insatiable Appetite, University of California Press, 1999.
  • J. R. Mc Neill, Something New Under the Sun, W. W. Norton and Company, NY, 2000.
  • Joachim Radkau, Nature and Power, CUP, 2008 (translated).
  • Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory, Vintage Book, 1996.
  • Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, CUP, 1986.
  • Conard Totman, The Green Archipelago: Forestry in Preindustrial Japan, University of California Prees, 1989.
  • Ramachandra Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History, Penguine, 2000.
  • R. B. Marks, Tiger, Rice, Silt, and Silk: Enviroment and Economy in Late Imperial South China, CUP, 1998.
  • Roderick Nash, Wilderness and American Mind, Yale University Press, 3rd ed 1982.
  • Other readings will be suggested in the class and soft or hard copy of all readings will be provided.

Tentative Assessment schedule with details of weightage:



Date/period in which Assessment will take place



Take home assignment

End February



Take home assignment

End March



Thought pieces/ class discussion

Regularly in the class



End Semester exam

End of the semester, end of April



First assignment is to test how students understand question and use various readings to develop a logical answer. Second assignment generally involves book review where it is tested that how students are able to read a text carefully, review it and present it in the class. Third assignment is weekly class discussion based on the reading given in advance. And final assignment, end semster examination, tests student’s ability to graps the course and write answers to questions in a given time. This tests knowledge, analytical skill, and ability to argue a point of view based on the knowledge acquired from the course.