HSTAA/ENVIR 221 Environmental History of the United States
Room: Lowe Hall 206 Time: Monday and Wednesday, 10:30-12:20
Instructor: Nathan E. Roberts
Office: Smith Hall 104C
Phone: 206 543 0729
Office Hours: Mondays & Wednesdays 2-3 PM and by appointment
Course Design and Goals
U.S. environmental history is a study of how peoples in the United States have used, though about, represented, and been influenced by the material, or natural, world. Instead of focusing on human actors and actions alone, this history course will highlight some ways that the material, or natural, world established limits for human action and shaped historical changes in the United States. It will investigate U.S. politics, society, and culture by examining soil, insects, animals, trees, chemical compounds, and much more that makes up our natural environment. In addition, it will explore how Americans have defined, represented, and used their natural environment over time as well as what these definitions, representations, and uses have meant for U.S. history.
By completing the course requirements, students will learn 1) how to think historicallyabout the material world and human actions within it, 2) how to analyze both primary and secondary sources as a core element of historical study, 3) some of the research methods and investigative techniquesused by historians and social scientists, and 4) how to write a strong argumentative essay and how to revise and improve their prose.
Required Reading – You will be asked to read approximately 100 pages per week.
William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England(2003 or
Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves and the Hidden History of American
Nancy Langston, Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES(2010)
*Additional readings are available on the course’s Canvas website and designated on the class schedule by (C).
Writing is an essential part of history and you should use this opportunity to improve your prose. I recommend that all students, regardless of previous writing experience, consult Michael Harvey, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing(2003), especially chapters 1 & 2 on “Concision” and “Clarity.” These two chapters on posted in the course’s Canvas website.
This course does not use a traditional textbook. (The lectures act as the textbook!) However, if you would like to consult a U.S. environmental history survey text, see Ted Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History rev. ed. (2009).
Assignments & Grading
Final Exam 20%
Place Paper 30% (3 components listed below)
Tangible Object Assignment 5%
Paper Draft 10%
Final Paper 15%
**Students must attempt each graded assignment in order to pass the course.