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Week 5. Environment and the Anthropocene

This week considers the dialogue between environmental history and global historical perspectives. Read the core readings and consider: how has the field of environmental developed over the last two decades? How are these different historians practicing “environmental history”? Is the concept of ‘the Anthropocene’ of particular use to global historians?

Global Environmental History: core readings

• J.F. Richards, The Unending Frontier: an environmental history of the early modern world (Berkeley, 2003), esp. pp. 58-86.
• K. Pomeranz, ‘World History and Environmental History’, in E. Burke and K. Pomeranz (eds.), The Environment and World History (Berkeley, 1999)
• J.R. McNeill, ‘Observations on the Nature and Culture of Environmental History’, History and Theory, Vol. 42, No. 4 (2003), pp. 5-43.
• J. R. McNeill and Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: an Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945 (Harvard, 2016)

In addition, pick one or two of the following case studies and come to class prepared to introduce it, and to share your reactions to it, with the rest of the seminar:

Writing Environmental Histories: case studies

• J.F. Richards, ‘Ecological Strategies in Tokugawa Japan’, in Richards, Unending Frontier, pp. 148-192.
• W.J.Bolster, ‘Putting the Ocean in Atlantic History: maritime communities and marine ecology in the Northwest Atlantic, 1500-1800’ American Historical Review (February 2008)
• R. Neumann, Imposing Wilderness: Struggles over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa (Berkeley, 1998).
• D. Anderson, ‘Depression, dust bowls, demography and drought’, African Affairs (1984)
• D. Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (2004 ed.)
• J.R. McNeill and C.R. Unger (eds.), Environmental Histories of the Cold War (2010)
• W. Beinart and L. Hughes (eds.), Environment and Empire (Oxford, 2007)
• R. Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1800 (Cambridge, 1995)
• A. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge, 1986)
• G. Parker, Global Crisis: war, climate change and catastrophe in the seventeenth century (2014), pp. xxiv- and 668-685.

Further reading

• D. Worster (ed.), The Ends of the Earth: perspectives on modern environmental history (Cambridge, 1988)
• A.W.Crosby, ‘The Past and Present of Environmental History’, American Historical Review (October, 1995)
• J.R. McNeill, 'Biological Exchanges in World History', in J.H. Bentley (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of World History (2011)
• W. Steffan, J. Grinevald, P. Crutzen and J. McNeill, ‘The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives’, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A, 369 (2011), pp. 842-867.
• G. Palsson,, B. Szerszynski, S. Sorlin et. al., ‘Reconceptualizing the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: Integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research’, Environmental Science and Policy , Vol. 28 (2013), pp. 3-13.
• D. Christian, 'World Environmental History', in J.H. Bentley (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of World History (2011)