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HISTORY 4K03 Envronmentalsm In Mod N. Amer

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Julien Mauduit

Email: mauduitj@mcmaster.ca

Office: LRW 2007

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26425


Office Hours: Tuesday 2:30-4:30

Course Objectives:


This course focuses on the interrelationship between man and nature in North American modern history. We will concentrate on the uniqueness of the modern period in environmental history: the urbanization and industrialization of American and Canadian societies, and their multiple consequences. The aim of the course is to provide the students with a wide historical background in environmental history, in order to better understand some of the critical environmental issues of today’s world. A strong emphasis will therefore be placed on the relationship between citizenship and the natural environment, or between ethics and human interaction with nature. A wide range of topics will be covered, including the pre-modern and philosophical views of nature, the ecological impacts of European imperialism, urbanization and capitalistic economy, the exploitation of natural resources, from mines to animals, and the dynamics behind legislation and public policies. Based on personal readings, seminar discussions, and individual research, the course is designed to develop the students’ academic skills in relation to contemporary civic ecological issues. Each student will have to undertake a research project on one of society’s current environmental topics, to analyzing this issue from a historical perspective. In other words, the course’s objective is to use academic and historical critical-thinking for civic – environmental – purposes.


The course’s format is a weekly two-hour seminar. The seminars will consist of a short presentation on a major theme on environmental North American history, followed by a collective discussion based on the assigned readings. Regular workshops will be held to help with your paper, and two seminars will be consecrated to student presentations.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


All the assigned readings will be available on Avenue to Learn (ATL) and in the Mills Library’s collections.


You will find valuable information in the following books, available at the Mills Library:

-Michael Lewis, American Wilderness: A New History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

-Laurel Sefton MacDowell, An Environmental History of Canada (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012).

-Carolyn Merchant, American Environmental History: An Introduction (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

-Ted Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

-Graeme Wynn, Canada and Arctic North America: An Environmental History (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2007).

Method of Assessment:




Historiographical Essay




Research Paper



Participation – 20 %

As this course is seminar-led, an active participation during the discussions is fundamental. This evaluation will be mostly based on your participation. For each seminar, you have to read the assigned readings, and then share your thoughts, raise questions and debate with your fellow-students. I will assume the readings are done and will organize the seminars accordingly. The best way to prepare for the discussion is to arrive for the seminar with a few comments on each assigned readings, and more generally on the topic of each seminar.


Historiographical Essay – 25%

Due Date: October 31

This essay is based on the assigned readings. You have to provide a comprehensive and synthesis-like analysis of the readings, helped in this task with the seminar discussions. This means that you can make use of the seminar discussions and of the notes taken then. You do not have to make an extensive use of all the assigned readings, but to choose an angle allowing you to mention the majority of them. Thus, your analysis of the assigned readings will vary according to your angle of inquiry. A good essay will link the readings together, echoing or opposing some of them, present a dynamic view on your chosen angle, and propose an original and personal reflection. Besides presenting a well-organized essay (introduction/sections/conclusion), you have a certain freedom on your essay’s nature. The form of your historiographical essay will depend on your angle. Choosing a perspective or topics related to your research paper is an interesting option. Required length: 5 to 7 pages, double-spaced. A more precise guideline will be available on Avenue to Learn.


Presentation – 15 %

Dates: Weeks 12 and 13

During this presentation, you will expose your personal research in front of the class. Since this presentation will be held during the last weeks of the semester, it is assumed that your research will be well-advanced. Your 10 minute presentation shall expose your research paper’s topic, its historical background and the civic issue(s) at stake. One week before your presentation, you can provide one major document (if a text, no more than 25 pages) found during your research. This source will be uploaded on to ATL to be read by your fellow students before the seminar. An excellent presentation will expose the topic in its historical context, raise questions, delineate the object of the reflection, and give to the other students some key elements to discuss on the topic. The quality of the discussion following your presentation will be a notable mean to evaluate the presentation. This presentation shall help you to finish your research paper – think of it as a useful workshop.


Research Paper – 40%

Due Date: December 7

The whole course is designed to help you write the most relevant research paper possible. The main goal of this paper is to encourage you to use academic methods in order to produce a civic reflection of high quality on a contemporary environmental question of your choice. Once you have chosen your topic, you will undertake a personal research to gather the necessary sources. These sources can be of a wide-range, such as laws, discourses, reports, graphics, pictures, movies, newspaper articles, academic papers, scientific data, and so on. Your paper has to insert your topic in its historic background. Then, using evidence, you must argue on your topic, even if you conclude that having a clear position is impossible. As a matter of fact, you cannot limit yourself to paraphrasing a specialist of your topic. The gathered knowledge has to be thoroughly analyzed and be the support (evidence) of your reflection. The peculiarity of this assignment is its civic dimension. Your academic perspective shall be framed as if it was addressed to fellow-citizens, informing them of the issues at stake for the future and providing them with a relevant historical and critical perspective. Your argumentation has to be supported by facts and evidence, and be presented in a convincing manner (the structure including at least introduction/sections/conclusion). If you wish and if this is relevant, you can use any academic specialist or public intellectual. I will not judge the nature of the conclusion, but evaluate the quality of your research, your ability to analyze your sources, and the rigor of your demonstration and arguments. Required length: between 10 to 20 pages, double-spaced. Recommended length: 14 to 16 pages double-spaced. A more precise guideline will be available on Avenue to Learn.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late: 2% of your grade will be withdrawn per calendar day.

Any extension has to be documented and determined before the deadline. As an obvious measure of fairness, please note that only exceptional circumstances could justify an extension. You are also welcome to submit your paper prior to the deadline.

If you miss a seminar, it is your responsibility to catch up on the material you have missed.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Week 1

Sept. 5: Introduction: Environmental History, from Books to Civic Issues


Week 2

Sept 12: Environmental History in Pre-Modern North America


-Colleen Franklin, “The Early Publication and Reception History of the Voyage” in The Strange and Dangerous Voyage of Captain Thomas James: A Critical Edition (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014): xxxv-liii (ebook).

-James E. McWilliams, “Worshipping Weeds: The Parable of the Tares, the Rhetoric of Ecology, and the Origins of Agrarian Exceptionalism in Early America,” Environmental History, 16 (April 2011): 290-311 (ATL).

-Keith Pluymers, “Taming the Wilderness in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Ireland and Virginia,” Environmental History, 16 (Oct. 2011): 610-632 (ATL).

-Richard White, “Discovering Nature in North America,” The Journal of American History, 79 (Dec. 1992): 874-891 (ATL).


Week 3

Sept. 19: Nature as Men’s Conception


-Kent Curtis, “The Virtue of Thoreau: Biography, Geography, and History in Walden Woods,” Environmental History, 15 (Jan. 2010): 31-53 (ATL).

-Carolyn Merchant, “Reinventing Eden: Western Culture as a Recovery Narrative,” in William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground. Toward Reinventing Nature (New York: Norton & Co., 1995): 132-159 (ATL).

-Val Plumwood, “The Concept of a Cultural Landscape: Nature, Culture and Agency in the Land,” Ethics and the Environment, 11 (Fall-Winter 2006): 115-150 (ATL).

-Nancy Senior, “Sophie and the State of Nature,” French Forum, 2 (May 1977): 134-146 (ATL).


Week 4

Sept. 26: Ecological Imperialism - ***Research Paper Workshop

Readings (choose 3 among the 4 following texts):

-James Beattie, “Recent Themes in the Environmental History of the British Empire,” History Compass 10, (2012): 129-139 (ATL).

-Theodore Binnema and Melanie Niemi, “‘Let the Line be Drawn Now’: Wilderness, Conservation, and the Exclusion of Aboriginal People from Banff National Park in Canada,” Environmental History, 11 (Oct. 2006): 724-50 (ATL).

-Elizabeth A. Fenn, “Biological Warfare in Eighteeth-Century North America: Beyond Jeffrey Amherst,” The American Journal of History, (March 2000): 1552-1580 (ATL).

-Liza Piper and John Sandlos, “A Broken Frontier: Ecological Imperialism in the Canadian North,” Environmental History, 12 (Oct. 2007): 759-795 (ATL).


Week 5

Oct. 3: Managing The Nature ***Historiographical Essay Workshop

Readings (choose 3 among the 5 following texts):

-Margaret Beattie Bogue, “To Save the Fish: Canada, the United States, the Great Lakes, and the Joint Commission of 1892,” The Journal of American History, 79 (March 1993): 1429-1454 (ATL).

-Karl Jacoby, “Class and Environmental History: Lessons from ‘The War in the Adirondacks,’” Environmental History, 2 (July 1997): 324-42 (ATL).

-Tina Loo, “Making a Modern Wilderness: Conserving Wildlife in Twentieth-Century Canada,” The Canadian Historical Review, 82 (March 2001): 92-120 (ATL).

-Anne Whiston Spirn, “Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted,” in William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground. Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (New York: Norton & Co., 1996): 91-113 (ATL).

-Suzanne Zeller, “Darwin Meets the Engineers: Scientizing the Forest at McGill University, 1890-1910,” Environmental History, 6 (July 2001): 428-450 (ATL).


Week 6: Reading Week


Week 7

Oct. 17: Quest for Energy ***Research Paper Workshop


-Christopher F. Jones, “A Landscape of Energy Abundance: Anthracite Coal Canals and the Roots of American Fossil Fuel Dependence, 1820-1860,” Environmental History, 15 (July 2010): 449-484 (ATL).

-Laurel Shefton MacDowell, “Nuclear Power,” in Ruth W. Sandwell (ed.), Powering Up Canada. The History of Power, Fuel, and Energy from 1600 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016): 329-352 (e-book).

-Tyler Priest, “Schrimp and Petroleum: The Social Ecology of Louisiana’s Offshore Industries,” Environmental History, 21 (July 2016): 488-515 (ATL).


Week 8

Oct. 24: Quest for Food & the Human-Animal Relationship


-Neil Pendergast, “Raising the Thanksgiving Turkey: Agroecology, Gender, and the Knowledge of Nature,” Environmental History, 16 (Oct. 2011): 651-677 (ATL).

-Nancy Shoemaker, “Whale Meat in American History,” Environmental History, 10 (April 2005): 269-294 (ATL).

-Noël Sturgeon, “Considering Animals: Kheel’s Nature Ethics and Animal Debates in Ecofeminism,” Ethics and the Environment, 14 (Fall 2009): 153-62 (ATL).

-Natale Zappia, “Revolutions in the Grass: Energy and Food Systems in Continental North America, 1763–1848,” Environmental History, 21 (Jan. 2016): 30-53 (ATL).


Week 9

Oct. 31: Urbanization & Nature ***Due Date: Historiographical Essay

Readings (choose 2 among the 4 following texts):

-Ken Cruikshank and Nancy Bouchier, “Blighted Areas and Obnoxious Industries: Constructing Environmental Inequalities on an Industrial Waterfront, Hamilton, Ontario, 1890-1960,” Environmental History, 9 (July 2004): 464-496 (ATL).

-Arn Keeling, “Sink or Swim: Water Pollution and Environmental Politics in Vancouver, 1889-1975,” BC Studies, 142/143 (Summer/Autumn 2004): 69-104 (ATL)

-Steve Penfold, “‘Are We to Go Literally to the Hot Dogs?’ Parking Lots, Drive-ins, and the Critique of Progress in Toronto Suburbs, 1965-1975,” Urban Historical Review, 33 (Fall 2004): 8-23 (ATL).

-Harold L. Platt, “Jane Addams and the Ward Boss Revisited: Class, Politics, and Public Health in Chicago, 1890–1930,” Environmental History, 5 (2000): 194-222 (ATL).


Week 10

Nov. 7: Environmental Activism: From the Nature’s to the Man’s Fate ***Research Paper Workshop

Readings (choose 3 among the 4 following texts):

-Amy M. Hay, “A New Earthly Vision: Religious Community Activism in the Love Chemical Disaster,” Environmental History, 14 (July 2009): 502-526 (ATL).

-Shen Hou, “Garden and Forest: A Forgotten Magazine and the Urban Roots of American Environmentalism,” Environmental History, 17 (Oct. 2012): 813-842 (ATL).

-Mark J. McLaughlin, “Green Shoots: Aerial Insecticide Spraying and the Growth of Environmental Consciousness in New Brunswick, 1952-1973,” Acadiensis, 40 (Winter/Spring 2011): 3-23 (ATL).

-Philip Van Huizen, “‘Panik Park’: Environmental Protest and the Politics of Parks in British Columbia’s Skagit Valley,” BC Studies, 170 (Summer 2011): 67-92 (ATL).


Week 11

Nov. 14: Environmentalism & Citizenship ***Presentation Workshop


-William Cronon, “The Trouble With Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” in Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1995): 69-90 (ATL).

-Mark J. Smith and Piya Pangsapa, “Introduction: Environment, Obligation and Citizenship,” in Environment and Citizenship: Integrating Justice, Responsibility and Civic Engagement (London: Zed Books, 2008): 1-6; and “Rethinking Environment and Citizenship,” in ibid: 59-86 (ATL).


Week 12

Nov. 21: ***Presentations

Readings: TBA


Week 13

Nov. 28: ***Presentations

Readings: TBA


Week 14

Dec. 5: Nature Knows No Border ***Research Paper Workshop


-Germàn Palacio, “An Eco-Political Vision for an Environmental History: Toward a Latin American and North American Research Partnership,” Environmental History, 17 (Oct. 2012): 725-743 (ATL).

-Richard White, “The Nationalization of Nature,” The Journal of American History, 86 (Dec. 1999): 976-986 (ATL).

Dec. 7: Due Date: Research Paper