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Comparative History: Comparative Environmental History

Graduate students interested in exploring comparative historical approaches have the option of mastering literature in one of five sub-fields: "Historiography," "Comparative Ethnicity and Nationalism," "Comparative Gender," "Comparative Colonialisms," and "Comparative Environmental." Each of these fields allows graduate students to situate their own focused research in broadly conceived historiographies.

Comparative Environmental History

As a field of scholarship, environmental history focuses on the reciprocal interactions between human societies and the natural world over time, the changing ways in which those interactions have been mediated by cultural and political forms, and the emergence of “the environment” as an object of knowledge and concern.  It also seeks to challenge the neglect of materials and materiality in other fields of history.  Students taking a field in comparative environmental history will focus their readings on at least two different regions of the world (for example, North America, Latin America, South Asia, Middle East, Africa, or Europe).

Like our other comparative fields, this field would normally require students to take two courses: a field course in “Comparative Environmental History,” and one other course in which environmental history is a major focus. The faculty examiner for the field must agree that the second course constitutes a “major focus” on the field in comparative environmental history.

Associated Faculty

Professor Purnima Dhavan
Associate Professor
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Early Modern South Asia

    Graduate students preparing a field in the history of South Asia 1200-1800 will be expected to gain a broad familiarity with the history of the Sultanate and Mughal period in addition to the histories of various regional dynasties. The social, cultural, and political history of the period is emphasized and includes state formation and the emergence and transformation of caste and ethnic identity, religious traditions, warrior and peasant cultures, trading networks, and intellectual traditions.

    Students will create a specialized course of study in consultation with the professor. Proficiency in one South Asian language and/or Persian is required for students who wish to pursue a primary specialization in this field. Students who select this as a secondary field need not have knowledge of a South Asian language.

    Required course work for a first field in this area includes completing HSTAS 502 and 590 and two supervised directed readings in coordination with the HSTRY 596-7 paper. One will focus on reading primary sources in the original languages.

    For those selecting Early Modern South Asia as a second field, HSTAS 502 is required. Two additional directed readings will also be required, one connected to the applicant’s regional/linguistic focus and the other in Historiography.

    For those selecting Modern South Asia as a third or fourth field, HSTAS 502 is required. Depending on research and training needs, a directed reading (HSTRY 600) will also be supervised by Prof. Dhavan.

    Proficiency in one South Asian language and/or Persian is required for students who wish to pursue a primary specialization in this field. Students who select this as a secondary field need not have knowledge of a South Asian language.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography & Comparative Gender)*

    Students preparing a field in Historiography will study the impact of modern historical theories and methodologies on our understanding of early modern South Asian history including nationalist, feminist, marxist, and subaltern modes of analysis. The course of study in the field will also explore oral traditions, mythological concepts of time, memory and history in textual sources and art from the early modern period.

    A field in Comparative Gender in South Asia from 1200-1800 will examine the construction of gender in early modern South Asia and its specific interactions with caste, social class, and ethnicity. Readings will focus on the construction of gender in courtly, warrior, ascetic, and mystical traditions in the early modern period as well as the considerable body of theoretical and methodological debates about the history of gender put forward by modern scholars.


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Mark Metzler
Professor, Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies, Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor in History
Linda Nash
Professor
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: United States

    U.S. Environmental History

    As a field of scholarship, environmental history focuses on the reciprocal interactions between human societies and the natural world, the changing ways in which those interactions have been mediated by cultural and political forms, and the emergence of “the environment” as an object of knowledge and concern.  It also seeks to challenge the neglect of materials and materiality in other fields of history.  Chronologically the field ranges from the pre-Columbian era to the present. Students are expected to engage methodological and theoretical issues (e.g., the spatial turn, actor-network theory, the “new materialism”) and to familiarize themselves with key historical themes and selected interdisciplinary approaches. Within that broad framework, possible topics of specialization include environment and empire, urban environmental history, gender and race, the history and production of environmental knowledge, environmental politics, consumption and consumerism, the environmental history of bodies and health, the environmental history of technology and infrastructure. It is also possible to construct an environmental history field that is geographically comparative and/or that engages relevant literature in geography, anthropology, or another related discipline.

    Western U.S.

    History of the trans-Mississippi West, emphasizing social and cultural history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In addition, students are expected to address the methodological issues posed by regional (versus national and transnational) approaches to history. Among the possible emphases are nineteenth-century colonialism, race and racial ideology, women and gender, environment and land use, representations of the West, politics and the state.

    Twentieth Century U.S.

    A broad chronological field that covers major developments in social and cultural history and politics since 1880.


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Joshua L. Reid
Associate Professor, Director, Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, John Calhoun Smith Memorial Endowed Professor
Professor Lynn Thomas
Professor, Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor in History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Africa & the Middle East

    Examines methodological and conceptual issues in the study of sub-Saharan Africa since 1500 focusing on pre-colonial political and social institutions, slavery and the slave trade, European colonialism, anti-colonial resistance and nationalist politics, and postcolonial challenges. Emphasis on exploring the usefulness of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class as analytical categories in African history.

    Division: Comparative History (Comparative Gender & Comparative Colonialisms)*

    The field in Comparative Gender explores historical scholarship on gender, focusing on 19th- and 20th-century Africa and another period and place of the student's choice, by examining the emergence of women's history; the relationship between Marxism, feminism, and poststructuralism; the framing of gender as a social and symbolic construct; and the analytical intersections between gender, race, sexuality, and class. The field in Comparative Colonialisms approaches European colonialism in Africa and Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries by examining scholarship on the relationship between capitalism and colonialism, violence and the routinization of colonial power, colonial categories of race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and gender, and resistance movements and nationalist politics.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


    View Lynn M. Thomas's complete profile

profile photo of professor Joel Walker
Associate Professor, Lawrence J. Roseman Endowed Professorship in History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Ancient Meditteranean & Late Antique Near East

    A field in Late Antiquity will encompass the history of the Mediterranean and the Near East, 200-750CE, combining a broad general knowledge of the period, with intensive study of at least one region (e.g., North Africa, Syria-Palestine) and two themes chosen to complement student research interests (e.g., hagiography and asceticism, cities, death, burial, and conceptions of the afterlife). Students preparing a field in the History of the Byzantine Empire, 610-1453 CE, may focus on social and cultural history, and the relationship between Byzantine Empire and its neighboring states. In most cases, students will want to include course work in Byzantine art history as part of their preparation for this field. A field in the history of Christianity in the Near East is also possible, covering the period from 500 CE to the present, combining a broad knowledge of the various Christian traditions of the region, with an intensive study of any one tradition (e.g., the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, East or West Syrian Christian traditions), focused on the pre-modern period.

    Division: Africa & the Middle East

    Students may prepare a field in the Islamic Middle East, encompassing the history of the Sasanian and early Islamic Near East, 500-900 CE, combining a broad general knowledge of the period, with intensive study of at least one region (e.g., Egypt, Iraq, Iran), and two overarching themes chosen to complement student research interests.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography & Comparative Gender)*

    Students preparing a field in Historiography will explore the themes, methods, and theory of hist TAUGHTorical writing in late antiquity. Students will acquire a broad general knowledge of the range of historical writing in late antiquity (200-900 CE): from the classical Greco-Roman tradition represented by writers like Ammianus Marcellinus and Procopius; to the Christian history and chronicle tradition begun by Eusebius of Caesarea; to al-Tabari and the origins of Islamic historiography. Fields in Comparative Gender will encompass the history of gender in early Christianity, from the New Testament to late antiquity (20-600 CE). Students will acquire a broad command of early Christian debates about gender (especially the role of women in the church). Topics examined in the field include sexual renunciation, asceticism, and the legal and social role sof women in the Roman Empire and the early Church.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field


    View Joel Thomas Walker's complete profile

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