Fall 2021 - HIST 377 D100

Environmental History (4)

Class Number: 3917

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 14, 2021
    Tue, 11:59–11:59 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including six 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 has been 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 traces of human activity throughout time. This course explores Canada’s 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. We will consider three overarching questions. How have non-human actors (plants, animals, microbes) and factors (topography, climate) shaped human affairs in the northern half of North America? How have different Indigenous and settler communities understood and represented Canadian environments through science and art? How and why have people in what is today Canada made changes, both accidental and deliberate, in the lands around them—and with what consequences? We’ll also discuss some historiographical and methodological issues central to the field, including the relationship between environmental history and environmental activism, the unfortunate tendency of environmental history to depress rather than inspire its readers, and the possibility of writing critical, but “hopeful” environmental histories instead.

Lectures and tutorials will be delivered synchronously on Zoom. Lectures will be recorded and posted on the course’s Canvas website for the benefit of students who are unable to attend. Tutorials will not be recorded. Students who have concerns about their ability to regularly attend and participate in synchronous tutorials should contact Dr Adcock as soon as possible.

Students will require a computer or other device able to access the Internet, and an Internet connection capable of handling the high bandwidth requirements associated with, e.g., synchronous lectures and tutorials held on Zoom.

The final exam will be take-home, i.e., asynchronous. 


By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Assess how human and non-human actors and factors have altered Canadian environments over time, and with what consequences
  • Analyze how social and cultural interpretations of Canadian environments have changed over time, and situate these in appropriate historical and cultural contexts
  • Discuss key historiographical and methodological issues in the field of environmental history with reference to course content
  • Practice and hone the skills of interpreting, evaluating, and synthesizing primary and secondary sources in various formats.


  • Participation 15%
  • Ecological imperialism paper 20%
  • Place "biography" 32.5%
  • Final exam 32.5%



There are no required textbooks for this course. All readings will be made available on, or will be linked to the course’s Canvas website.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.