LECTURER: Bill Cronon, 5103 Humanities (also 443 Science Hall).
SECTION LEADERS: Lauren Ayers, Bill Cronon, Daniel Grant, Ben Kasten.
Bill's Phone: 265-6023. This has an answering machine on which you can leave messages if I'm not in. No calls to my home telephone number, please. A much better way to contact me is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, but please do this sparingly; If you don’t hear back from me in a timely way, please just resend your email—and try to forgive me for frequently getting swamped with the heavy volume of messages I receive! Please don’t send me texts on my cell or via Facebook.
Bill’s Website: Bill’s website is at www.williamcronon.net, and the page for this course can be found at http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460.htm. Be sure to bookmark and keep track of this link, since the page has many handouts and other materials helpful for students in the course. If you happen to lose track of it, a Google search of “William Cronon 460” is likely to yield this page as the top hit.
Office Hours: 9:45-11:45am Wednesdays, 5103 Humanities, first come first served. I would prefer to see you during regular hours, but will try to meet with you at other times if necessary. Please don't just stop by my office if you need to see me at times other than my office hours, however; email me first and make an appointment. I generally meet with students for appointments in 443 Science Hall.
TA Offices: Email is the best way to get in touch with your section leader if you need to contact them. Lauren Ayers’ email address is email@example.com; Daniel Grant’s is firstname.lastname@example.org; and Ben Kasten’s is email@example.com. Lauren and Ben share an office in 4272 Humanities, and Daniel Grant’s office is in 404 Science Hall. All will circulate office hours at the first section meeting of the semester.
is the best way to get in touch with your section leader if you need to contact them.
LECTURES will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 2:30-3:45pm, in 3650 Humanities.
Environmental history studies the changing relationships between human beings and the natural world through time. Despite being numbered at the 400-level, this course is intended as an introduction to this exciting and relatively new field of scholarship, with no prerequisites. It assumes no background in American history, geography, or environmental studies, and offers a general survey that can be valuable for students interested in any of these fields, from entry-level undergraduates through advanced graduate students. Although the course is intended to be challenging, it is also meant to be fun: any student willing to attend lectures, do the readings, and work hard should be able to enjoy and do well in it. Our central premise throughout will be that much of the familiar terrain of American history looks very different when seen in environmental context, and that one can learn a great deal about history, geography, and the environment by studying them together. All too often, historians study the human past without attending to nature. All too often, scientists study nature without attending to human history. We will try to discover the value of integrating these different perspectives, and argue that the humanistic perspectives of historians and geographers are absolutely crucial if one hopes to understand contemporary environmental issues.We will be approaching American environmental history from at least three different angles. First, we will ask how various past human activities have depended on and interacted with the natural world: how have natural phenomena and resources shaped patterns of human life in different regions of the continent? Second, we will trace the shifting attitudes toward nature held by different Americans during various periods of their nation's history: how have the human inhabitants of this continent perceived and attached meanings to the world around them, and how have those attitudes shaped their cultural and political lives? Finally, we will ask how human attitudes and activities have worked together to reshape the American landscape: how have people altered the world around them, and what have been the consequences of those alterations for natural and human communities alike? At the same time, we will be tracing the evolution of environmental politics in the United States, so that the course is also a history of conservation and environmentalism in our nation’s political life down to the present.
This syllabus provides a detailed outline of what we'll be covering in the course, and we strongly advise you to refer to it often as you plan your studying. Readings are moderately extensive, but they are generally not difficult; they have been chosen as much as possible to be fun and thought-provoking as well as informative. All required texts are available at the University Bookstore, and can also be ordered online. They are as follows (with call numbers):
I have cut the number of required textbooks quite significantly this year in an effort to reduce costs for students; at the same time, the number of online readings has increased, as you’ll see when you study the syllabus below. All required textbooks are available on reserve in Helen C. White library and/or at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. You needn't purchase all of them, and you should feel free to read library copies or share books with classmates if you prefer. Other readings are available as course handouts or on electronic reserve either via your My UW page or on my personal website. Please be sure you know how to access e-reserve readings and find my website by the end of the first week of classes.
The midterm exam counts for 20% of your grade, and the final for 25% of it; the first paper counts for 5%; the place paper for 30%; and section participation for the remaining 20%. Please note in particular that we take section participation very seriously in this course. Learning how to talk intelligently and enthusiastically about significant subjects is actually one of the most important skills you can learn in college, and this course is a great place to work on that skill. We'll be dealing with interesting readings about historical subjects that have important implications for our present and future, so it shouldn't be hard for you to come to section with questions and comments you'd like to share with other members of the group. Try to make a special effort to get to know not just your section leader, but the other students in your section. We promise this will not only make the course more enjoyable, but will add a lot to what you learn as well.
There will be two exams, a midterm and a final. The final has an objective section and essay question covering mainly the second half of the course, but also has a second essay question requiring a comprehensive essay covering the course as a whole. Our final exam slot is 7:25-9:25pm on Saturday night, December 19, and no advance sittings of the exam will be available, so please plan your end-of-semester travel schedule accordingly.
FIRST PAPER: (2 double-spaced pages; 3-4 pages for Honors undergrads and graduate students): This brief initial writing assignment is due at the beginning of lecture on Monday, September 28, and asks you to use one or more historical images to investigate a particular place on the UW-Madison campus or elsewhere in Madison—most likely a set of buildings or a landscape—to assess the ways in which it was different in the past compared to what it is today. This assignment only counts for 5% of your grade because we don’t want you to get too stressed out about it; to the contrary, we’d like you to experience the fun of playing historical detective to compare old photographs of a place with what that place looks like today, using your best historical skills to try to identify and interpret the chief changes that have occurred between the different moments in time.
Because we haven’t yet given you the tools for the full-scale research you’ll be doing for your place paper, we’re asking you to peruse online historical photographs to identify one or more that depict a place in Madison you can visit in the present so you can compare the two moments in time and write about the differences you observe. The best websites for locating such images are probably:
You may want to approach your selection of a place from two directions: looking at the world around you as you walk around campus or Madison to think about phenomena in the landscape and built environment that you find especially interesting, but also rummaging around among the online photo collections to see which images most interest you. Some of you will probably first identify your place by walking around in it; others will first find it in an old photo. But the point of this assignment is to juxtapose the photo (or photos—you can use more than one if you’d like) with the place you see today. Once you’ve done so, you should identify the historical changes that most interest you, then write a brief essay describing these changes and offering your best historical interpretation of what they mean. The first two lectures in the course are designed to try to help you think about different ways of doing this, and the first book we’re reading—Christopher Wells’s Car Country—should also be very suggestive about features in the landscape that you might want to discuss. That said, we also want to caution you not to be excessively influenced by Car Country if you’re writing about a place that isn’t especially oriented toward automobiles—as is, for instance, true of many parts of the UW-Madison campus. We’d also suggest that you select for the place you write about a geographical scale larger than a single building. Although it might seem easier and more manageable to write about one building, in fact this assignment is harder when you have less to write about.
Finally, the following webpage may give you ideas about strategies for interpreting old photographs: http://www.williamcronon.net/researching/images.htm There are some useful suggestions for how to read an urban landscape on this web page: http://nelson.wisc.edu/che/events/place-based-workshops/2009/project/index.php The following page isn’t mainly focused on cities, but it might give you some ideas as well: http://www.williamcronon.net/researching/landscapes.htm
THE PLACE PAPER (5-6 double-spaced pages; 7-10 pages for Honors undergrads and graduate students): This is due at the beginning of lecture on Monday, November 23, and is intended to give you an opportunity actually to do environmental history yourself as a way of synthesizing what you've learned from the entire course. In it, you are to choose some place--either located in Madison or somewhere you know well from your home or travels--and write a brief essay discussing your interpretation of some aspects of its environmental history, using the themes and perspectives we’ve studied in class. Because this is a relatively brief paper, you’ll need to think carefully about what parts of your chosen place you wish to explore in your essay: it is far better to discuss a few aspects well than many aspects superficially. Write a description or tell a story that will explain to the reader how this place came to have the shape and qualities it has today. You should think of this paper as an exercise in historical, geographical, and environmental interpretation, asking you to read a small patch of landscape as a document of past environmental change. Just as importantly, your place should illustrate one or more important themes drawn from the course as a whole, so please be careful to think carefully about which course themes can help you interpret the past of your place—and which aspects of your place can illustrate the themes of the course.
Since we'd like you to be thinking about this paper from the very start of the semester, we'd like to offer you some suggestions for the how best to approach it. Remember that a key aspect of this assignment is for you to gain experience trying to “read” an actual landscape while comparing what you find in that place today with historical documents that will help you interpret how it was different in the past. We fully understand that you don’t know enough environmental history to construct a complete or fully accurate narrative of environmental changes that have shaped your chosen place. What we’re looking for instead is that you take a long, careful look at the place and try to see it with unfamiliar eyes, taking nothing for granted but looking at everything you see there as if you’d never seen it before. Then ask how the things you see might have come to be there. As the first lecture of the course suggests, the trick is to ask as many questions as you can about landscapes you ordinarily take for granted. (Remember, you can go back and reread that first lecture, which is printed as an essay called "Kennecott Journey" in the book Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past, edited by myself; a PDF version of it is even more conveniently available on the course page of my website.) Use materials from the readings and from the lectures to help you think about the kinds of questions you want to ask, and do the best job you can answering these questions using the evidence you can find on the ground.
To help you learn the research skills you’ll be using in investigating and writing about your place, a group of my graduate students and I created a special website on “Learning Historical Research” which I would encourage you to explore and read carefully: www.williamcronon.net/researching/. It has many tips and suggestions that are likely to be helpful to you not just for this paper but for work you do in other courses as well. You are also strongly encouraged to read Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams’ classic The Craft of Research as early in the semester as you can.
If you’re having trouble choosing a place to write about, consider these suggestions right here in Madison; most can easily be applied to other locations as well:
Remember, the most important goal of this assignment is to look at a place, ask questions about it, and think about its past with reference to the historical and geographical phenomena you’ve learned about in this course. This is much harder when you’re worrying about it in the abstract than when you’re actually doing it. It really doesn’t matter what place you pick. You could literally go to anywhere in Madison or your hometown and take a random walk through a neighborhood, thinking about everything you see along the way, and write a great paper based on it.
We ask you to explore your place not just in the present, but in the past. Although you can partly do this by looking for remnants of the past in the place as it is today, you’ll also need to do significant archival research to locate old documents—newspapers, maps, travelers’ accounts, photographs, advertisements, and so on—that will give you insight into what your place was like in the past. For instance, looking at old photographs can be wonderfully suggestive about how your place has changed in the past.
If you’re writing about Madison, there are three excellent photographic histories of the city and the university on reserve at Helen C. White Library: David Mollenhoff’s Madison: A History of the Formative Years, F589 M157 M64 1982, 2003; Arthur Hove’s The University of Wisconsin: A Pictorial History, LD 6128 H68 1991; and Stuart Levitan’s Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Vol. 1, 1856-1931, F589 M157 L48 2006. There should be copies not just on reserve but in the non-circulating reference collection; multiple copies of Mollenhoff’s book are in the Geography Library in Science Hall and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library as well. Even if you only spend half an hour looking through these, they could be extremely helpful to you, especially if you’re having trouble with the assignment. (These books are also an excellent source of images to get you thinking about the first assignment for the course as well.)
There are a number of ways you could learn more about your chosen place. The suggestions I’ve listed below relate mainly to Wisconsin places, but most would be equally well suited to other parts of the country as well.
It is very important for you to keep track of, acknowledge, and be respectful of the sources you use in writing your place paper. The Web has made it so easy for students to copy and paste information they find online that it may be tempting for you simply to paste some of this material into what write. Don’t EVER do this. Plagiarism is a very serious ethical infraction—pretending that someone else’s work is your own—and will get you into serious trouble if it’s discovered. To learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it, consult the following online resources: UW-Madison Writing Center: http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QuotingSources.html Yale Writing Center: http://writing.yalecollege.yale.edu/advice-students/using-sources/understanding-and-avoiding-plagiarism
This semester, the History Department is offering a new “History Lab” to serve as resource center where experts (PhD students) will assist you with your history papers. No matter your stage in the writing process—choosing a topic, conducting research, composing a thesis, outlining your argument, revising your drafts—the History Lab staff is here, along with your professors and teaching assistants, to help you sharpen your skills and become a more successful writer. Sign up for a one-on-one consultation online: http://go.wisc.edu/hlab
Because the majority of lectures take place in a darkened room with PowerPoint presentations, because bright laptop screens are distracting to other students in this environment, and because the temptation to multitask has become so enormous now that wireless connections to the Internet are available in most lecture halls, the use of laptop computers, cell phones, or other screen-based devices is not permitted during lectures or discussion sections. If you have a medical reason for needing to use a laptop or other screen-based device that has been authorized by the McBurney Center, please let us know so we can discuss strategies for your use of these devices that will be minimally disruptive to other students.
If you are a McBurney student who needs any special accommodations for the course, please make sure your section leader is aware of your situation as early in the semester as possible, and well in advance of any examinations for which accommodations will be required.
IMPORTANT: In the following outline, lecture topics are arranged into thematic "weeks" that do NOT correspond with ordinary calendar weeks, so don't be confused about this. At least prior to the mid-term exam, most "weeks" consist of a Wednesday lecture, the following Monday lecture, and the following section; this way, all discussion sections will be assured of having heard the same lectures and done the same readings by the time they meet. Occasionally, one of these thematic "weeks" may involve a number of lectures less than or more than two. The parenthetic number after each week's title is the approximate number of pages of reading assigned for that week.
2 Sept: Ghost Landscapes: Getting Started with Environmental History
SECTION: No sections during week of Sept 2; first sections will meet following Labor Day on September 8-10.
SECTION, 8-10 Sept: Introductory
ASSIGNMENT: In addition to beginning your reading of Car Country, please spend an hour or two before our first discussion section meeting perusing the following two web pages: “How to Read a Landscape”: http://www.williamcronon.net/researching/landscapes.htm and “Reading an Urban Landscape”: http://nelson.wisc.edu/che/events/place-based-workshops/2009/project/index.php
If you’d like, you can reread Bill’s opening lecture, the original version of which is a published essay: William Cronon, “Kennecott Journey: The Paths Out of Town,” in William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin, eds., Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past (1992), 28-51, also available on Bill’s website as a link under “Other Resources” on our course webpage. It’s probably best to do this after the lecture. You should also begin reading Wells’ Car Country for next week’s discussion, since it’s a long book.
9 Sept: A Path Out of Town: Reading the Madison Landscape
14 Sept: The World That Coyote and Raven Made
SECTION, 15-17 Sept: Christopher Wells, Car Country, entire
ASSIGNMENT: You’ll be asked to bring to section and briefly explain to your classmates a print-out from a satellite view of Google Maps (https://www.google.com/maps) or Bing Maps (https://www.bing.com/maps/) of a landscape feature that illustrates an important argument in Car Country.
16 Sept: Migration, Disease, and Death
21 Sept: Co-Invasion
SECTION, 22-24 Sept: Cronon, Changes in the Land, xi-185 (of 20th anniversary edition, including Afterword). (If you buy a used copy of the first edition of the book, the new Afterword is available in our Online Library Reserve.)
23 Sept: Selling Animals
28 Sept: A World of Fields and Fences
WRITING: FIRST PAPER DUE AT START OF LECTURE ON MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28.
SECTION, 29 Sept - 1 Oct: We’ll spend section discussing your papers and how they can help launch your place papers.
30 Sept: The Flow of the River: Industrial and Urban Revolutions
5 Oct: Mountain Gloom, Mountain Glory: Sublime and Picturesque
SECTION, 6-8 Oct: Romanticism handout (available as PDF download from course web page)
7 Oct: The Machine in the Garden: Agricultural Revolutions
12 Oct: Hunters and Hunted
14 Oct: Even the Oceans Fail
14 Oct: EVENING REVIEW SESSION FOR MIDTERM EXAM, 7:00-8:30pm
SECTION, 13-15 Oct: Come prepared with questions and insights to review for the mid-term exam.
19 Oct: MID-TERM EXAM
21 Oct: Exploring Past Landscapes: An Introduction to Your Place Paper...and to UW-Madison Libraries
SECTION, 20-22 Oct: In section this week, you’ll be asked to talk about the place you’ve chosen for your final paper, and the themes from the course that you think you’ll be able explore while writing about how your place has changed over time. Please start reading the collection of documents edited by David Stradling for next week.
Read Wayne C. Booth, et al., The Craft of Research in the next couple weeks as background preparation for starting work on your research and writing assignments in the course.
Study the “Learning Historical Research” website at www.williamcronon.net/researching/
NB: During the next couple weeks, the staff of the Wisconsin Historical Society will offer tours of their collections, which will be absolutely invaluable for your place paper. Be sure to take one of these tours if you possibly can.
26 Oct: The Conservation Vision
28 Oct: Child in the Garden
SECTION, 27-29 Oct: Stradling, Conservation in the Progressive Era: Classic Texts, vii-106. (read entire book carefully)
If you're interested, explore Library of Congress's American Memory website on the early history of conservation: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/amrvhtml/conshome.html
2 Nov: Planning Against Disaster
4 Nov: Strategic Resources and the Population Bomb
SECTION, 3-5 Nov: Worster, Dust Bowl, 3-97, 182-254 (skim remainder if you have time).
9 Nov: Public Parks and Pleasuring Grounds
11 Nov: Wilderness and the Land Ethic
SECTION, 10-12 Nov: Leopold, Sand County Almanac, 6-19, 127-9, 137-41, 237-95. (If you're using another edition, read essays entitled "Good Oak," "Red Legs Kicking," "Thinking Like a Mountain," and Part IV, "The Upshot").
16 Nov: In-class screenings of Silent Spring documentaries
18 Nov: The Fallout of Silent Spring
SECTION, 17-19 Nov: Carson, “A Fable for Tomorrow” (Library E-reserves)
(Discuss documentary and oral excerpt from Rachel Carson's Silent Spring this week; reading is light so you can be researching and writing your place paper.)
23 Nov: Environmentalism Triumphant?
25 Nov: Regulation to the Rescue
26 Nov: Thanksgiving
WRITING: PLACE PAPERS DUE AT START OF LECTURE ON MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23.
SECTION, 24-26 Nov: No sections this week because of Thanksgiving holiday.
30 Nov: Energy Crises
2 Dec: Climate Change: People Who Live in Glass Houses
SECTION, 1-3 Dec: Students will give oral reports on the most important findings from their place papers this week.
7 Dec: Toxic Injustice
9 Dec: Unsustainable Politics in the Age of the Anthropocene
14 Dec: That Which We Tame
SECTION, 8-10 Dec: Looking back, summing up, and preparing for the final exam.