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Global Environmental History: An Introduction (HI2C4)


Tutor: Dr Guillemette Crouzet
Office: H346, third floor of the Humanities Building
Seminar Times: Thursday 1-3pm, room S1.141

For the weekly readings, please see the list online and read the documents and sources.

“Environmental history is the history of the mutual relations between humankind and the rest of nature. Humankind has long been part of nature. In the recent millennia, humankind has become a rogue mammal, exerting ever increasing upon earthly ecosystem”, J. R. McNeill, 'Observations on the Nature and Culture of Environmental History', History and Theory, 42/4, 2003.

Module Description

This module is an introduction to Global Environmental History. It explores environmental history and global history together. It considers how the human world and the natural world have interacted and reshaped each other through time. More precisely, this module examines the influence of the environment—climate, topography, plants, animals, and microorganisms—on human history and the way people, in turn, have influenced the natural world around them. Seminars will address and discuss the environmental consequences of major themes in global history from the modern period to the present days: capitalism, colonialism, industrialisation and warfare. Central to the classes will be the connections between environmental history on the one hand, and economic and political history on the other. Sessions will be shaped by longue durée discussions and consider both the regional and the global scales.

The weekly two-hour seminars will introduce students to key readings, themes and approaches to environmental history and to some of the concepts of the field such as "the Anthropocene", "conservationism" or "sustainability". It will address the perception of nature and present central figures who have played a role in the development of "conservationism" and "environmentalism" since the nineteenth century.

Aims and Objectives

  • Gain an understanding of the key concepts, main themes and approaches in environmental history as well as some knowledge of the history and development of this field.
  • Gain an understanding of interdisciplinary approaches to environmental history.
  • Gain an understanding of the changing relations and interactions between the human world and the natural world, and of the consequences of major global processes (capitalism, industrialisation, colonialism) on the environment.
  • Develop research skills, historiographical engagement, and critical analysis through individual and group work.
  • Evaluate critically a range of secondary and primary sources through a multi-disciplinary lens


This 15-CATS module will run during the Autumn term and consists of seminars only, but during week 1.During week 1, the first session will consist in one-hour introductory lecture and one-hour seminar. In addition to weekly 2-hour sessions, there will also be a single 2-hour workshop session in week 8.