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HSTCMP 221 A: Global Environmental History, Feast and Famine

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MW 12:40pm - 2:50pm
* *
Bachman photo
Jessica Bachman

Syllabus Description:

Summer 2020 (Full Term):

 Instructor: Jessica Bachman

Class Time: Monday 12:40-2:50 pm PST Panopto lectures and occasional zoom meetings / Wednesday Zoom live session12:40-2:50 pm

Office hours: Mondays 3:00-4:00 pm or by appointment (via Zoom)


HSTCMP221 Global Environmental History: Feast and Famine 

dutch still life.jpg

Georg Flegel, Still Life, ca. 1625–3



This class is organized around understanding changes in Global Environmental History through a focus on the politics of trade, consumption, and use of natural resources between 1500 and the present. Through a comparative historical analysis, we will unpack how the fledgling empires of the early modern period put in motion patterns of resource use, administrative efficiency, and political structures that had far reaching effects on populations and the natural environment for centuries to come. Contrary to popular assumption, this period, rather than the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, sparked the first large scale global extraction of natural resources that configured the world to have a prominent excess of resources consumed in some parts of the world (feasts) and a man-made scarcity (famine) in others. By studying the latest research in areas of history, ecology, and climate science we will grapple with the long and sometimes unpredictable swings in the control of resources and power within human society

The intimate connections between power structures and the distribution of resources will be examined through history by tracing how political power and access to resources had deep environmental and human consequences. We will also study the ways in which consumption and aesthetics reflect power and status in societies far removed from each other in time and place such as Mughal India, Tokugawa Japan, Nineteenth-century Africa, and Victorian England. The goal of this class is to have familiarity with the broad patterns of Global history and how they fit into debates about global environmental history.

Goals for Class: By the end of the quarter students should have accomplished the following:

  • have a solid grasp on the basic cultural and political transitions in global history
  • be aware of availability and limitations of approaches and the types of sources commonly used by historians studying world/global history and history of climate change
  • see how control of natural resources and people is also reflected in political and social structures
  • see the longer historical roots of environmental issues and resource scarcity/abundance 

Assignments and Grading:

Students are expected to complete assigned readings and watch assigned videos/lectures each week before joining our virtual class on Wednesdays. Students are expected to post weekly responses to online discussion questions on Canvas, write two short papers (3-5 pages each, double-spaced), and complete one final project (4 pages, double spaced) All assignment details, instructions, and dates are posted on Canvas under Assignments. Dates are included on the Schedule below.

Grade Breakdown:

Participation (7 online discussion posts)          20%

Short Responses (2), 22.5% each                     45%

Final Project                                                    35%



Catalog Description: 
Examines how consumption in societies such as China, India, Japan, Africa, Europe, and the Americas developed from 1500 to the present. Broad patterns of global history and how they fit into debates about environmental history. Offered: Sp.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
April 22, 2020 - 9:13pm