Spring 2018 - HIST 432 D100

Problems in Environmental History (4)


Class Number: 3315

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 2501, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Christina Adcock
    1 778 782-4533
    Office: AQ #6236
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



An investigation into the major themes and arguments in the environmental histories of North America, emphasizing how different individuals and groups have used, perceived, and managed their environments over time. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 432 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Students with credit for GEOG 432 may take HIST 432 for credit only when a different topic is taught.


Problems in Environmental History: Science, Technology, and Nature in the Modern World

This iteration of HIST/GEOG 432 examines the confluence of environmental history and the history of science and technology. At first glance, these two thematic fields seem to have much in common; in practice, they have often been reluctant to engage with each other. Historians of science have long privileged laboratory-based and experimental sciences over those taking place in the field. Meanwhile, environmental historians have often viewed “science” and “scientific knowledge” as static categories, rather than the products of material practices and social hierarchies that change over time, and that must always be situated in specific historical and geographical contexts. Recently, environmental historians have begun to apply conceptual and analytical tools from science and technology studies to their investigations of the reciprocal relationships between humans and the nonhuman world in the past. This has resulted in new, hybrid fields of inquiry, including “envirotech” (envirotechnical history) and evolutionary history.

In this seminar, we’ll read work by environmental historians, historical geographers, and historians of science and technology that sheds light on key questions in the study of science, technology, and nature. How have explorers, scientists, Indigenous peoples and technocrats understood and represented the nonhuman world across time and space? How have scientific practices and technological artifacts and systems reshaped nonhuman environments and ecosystems? And how have nonhuman actors and factors confounded, or pushed back against such interventions? Who speaks for nature? In other words, whose knowledge about nonhuman worlds has been used to guide environmental policies and practices, and whose has been ignored or dismissed—and why?

No background in science is required: only a willingness to engage with material that is somewhat complex and challenging. In return, you will gain a deeper and richer understanding of the relationships between science, technology, nature, and society in the present, as well as the past.


  • Participation 30%
  • Two "deep cut" essays 40%
  • One term essay 30%
  • *Course readings, assignments, and their weighting may change between now and January. Please consult Dr. Adcock for the most up-to-date information.



Most, if not all of the required readings will be made available on Canvas. I may assign one or two books, but will be mindful of cost if I do so.

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