Spring 2017 - HIST 132 D100

Global Environmental History (3)

Class Number: 8374

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SECB 1012, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 19, 2017
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    AQ 3149, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Christina Adcock
    1 778 782-4533
    Office: AQ 6236



A planetary-scale introduction to reciprocal human-environment interactions from the discovery of fire to the present day. Case studies focus on humans and non-human actors in specific locales, and their movement across continents and oceans. Themes include climate, energy regimes, disease, science and technology, agriculture, subsistence, and landscape change. Breadth-Hum/Social Sci/Science.


Environmental history examines the reciprocal relationships between humans and the non-human world in the past. It brings nature into the study of history, and human culture into the study of nature. Especially when crossed with global history, it pushes the boundaries of the historical discipline. This brand-new course spans millennia of history, from the first human use of fire to the human-induced melting of ice caps and glaciers today. It will ask you to think critically about historical events on the very largest of scales (the planetary), the very smallest of scales (the microbial), and most other scales in between. Finally, it will ask you to consider how non-human actors and factors—including plants, animals, germs, climate, and topography—have shaped the course of human history.

Each week, we’ll use a specific historical agent or object—fire, ice, guano (a.k.a. bird excrement), rice, mosquitoes, uranium, Coke—to explore how different polities, economics, and cultures have sought to control, exploit, and understand the non-human world, and to understand the accidental as well as the deliberate consequences of such efforts. Local case studies featuring each object or agent will help us ground our investigations in specific times and places. But we’ll also follow its movements across continents and oceans, to practice placing key historical events and trends in comparative or transnational contexts. The course’s major assignment, a global environmental historical “autobiography,” will ask you to situate your personal history within these larger-scale narratives and forces.

No background in science is required to take this course, which is designed to appeal to History and non-History majors alike.


  • Participation in lectures/tutorials 20%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Global environmental historical autobiography 25%
  • Final exam 30%
  • *Course topics, assignments, and their weighting may change between now and the beginning of the spring term. Please consult Dr. Adcock for the most up-to-date information.



There are no required textbooks. Readings drawn from scholarly and popular journalistic publications will be posted on Canvas.

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