Spring 2020 - HIST 132 D100

Global Environmental History (3)

Class Number: 4569

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 6 – Apr 9, 2020: Mon, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 15, 2020
    Wed, 3:30–6:30 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Joseph Taylor
    1 778 782-4400
    Office: AQ 6012



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.


Our species has told stories about nature since before we had words. Our defining trait is an intense and sustained effort to defeat, harness, nurture, and worship nature. We leveled forests, bloomed deserts, stoppered seas, and changed climate. This course traces that thirteen-thousand-year global history as a general interest primer on the field of environmental history. Lectures and readings address the reciprocal relations between culture and ecology at a planetary scale. Eight themes shape the narrative: food, energy, settlement, population, disease, climate, knowing, and veneration. Students will be asked to identify how societies and nature reciprocally shaped each other across time and space, and how each narrative thread ties to other threads in context-dependent ways. Tales about food were inherently also about population and settlement; energy, disease, and climate were implicated as well. The course begins with the retreat of ice sheets and rise of agriculture. By 13000 YBP humans had gathering into permanent settlements alongside domesticated animals. Populations grew in ways that pressured resources and nutured pathogens. People altered local ecologies and planetary climate many millennia ago, and the social and ecological feedback loops only accelerated across time. Read, listen, and learn just how old the Anthropocene is, and how complex our environmental relationships have been.


  • Midterm 25%
  • Paper 25%
  • Final 25%
  • Participation 25%



No required textbook. Scholarly articles and primary documents available online.

Registrar Notes:

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