Fall 2015 - HIST 377 D100

Environmental History (4)

Class Number: 5853

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2015: Wed, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 9, 2015
    Wed, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division History.



Examines the reciprocal influences between humans and nature through time. Topics may include settlement, agriculture, technology, politics, urbanization, science, and conservation. Students with credit for GEOG 377 may not take this course for further credit.


We live, it’s often said, in a country with too much geography and not enough history. Yet no corner of Canada remains pristine, or untouched by people; even the most remote places bear the traces of human activity throughout time. This course will right the perceived imbalance between Canadian geography and history through the lens of environmental history, an interdisciplinary field that studies the reciprocal relationships between humans and the non-human world in the past. Our inquiry will span the era prior to contact to roughly the present day, and the entire space of northern North America (i.e. Canada). We will encounter the following key questions and themes: how have non-human actors (plants, animals, microbes) and factors (topography, climate) shaped human affairs? How have different Indigenous and Euro-Canadian communities understood and represented the natural world through science and art? How and why have people made changes, both accidental and deliberate, in the lands around them—and with what consequences?  
We’ll work through these issues using case studies such as ecological imperialism, extractive activities and industries, energy regimes, hybrid landscapes (e.g. parks and farms), and the intellectual triad of preservationism, conservationism, and environmentalism. We’ll also reflect critically upon some historiographical issues central to the field. What is, or should be, the relationship between environmental history and environmental activism? Why does environmental history tend to make people depressed rather than inspired? Following the maxim that hope is better than fear, we’ll try to construct “hopeful” environmental histories that will enable you to go forth and make thoughtful, historically-informed choices and interventions as Canadian and global citizens.


  • Participation 15%
  • Primary document analysis 15%
  • Place “biography" 20%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Final exam 30%
  • *Course components and their weighting may be altered between now and the beginning of the fall term.


HIST 377 is cross-listed with GEO 377 and you may take this course under the HIST designation or the GEO designation.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html