History/Geography 932
Topics in American Environmental History

The seminar is a one-semester introduction to some of the most interesting recent literature of American environmental history, read principally for the theories and methodologies it can offer scholars and scientists as well as its implications for contemporary environmental politics and management. The seminar assumes no previous coursework in the field, and students with a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines are encouraged to participate. The seminar is designed to provide a general overview of the major theoretical and methodological issues of American environmental history. Emphasis will be on important themes of the historiography, including the historical migration of species; the effects of disease on human communities; the role of different land-use activities in transforming ecosystems; the effects of markets and industrialization on environmental change; changing cultural conceptions of the natural world; the relationship of environmental history to social history and other subfields; the history of conservation and environmental politics; and methodological strategies for analyzing and narrating such topics. We will decide as a group whether to concentrate our written work for the semester on historiographical review; research design; undergraduate pedagogy; or writing beyond the academy in a digital age. The seminar does not provide a systematic chronological overview of U.S. environmental history per se, and those interested in gaining such an overview may wish to consider taking or auditing History/Geography/Environmental Studies 460 or 469 either in tandem with the seminar or as a replacement for it; the courses are designed to be complementary. The seminar is open to students in any field or program, but preference will be given to those who have a continuing research interest in the subject.

During the fall semester of 2017, the seminar will meet from 8:50-10:45am on Tuesdays in 202-204 Bradley Memorial Hall, home of UW-Madison's Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE).

Application Form

The application form for Fall 2017 is available here, and should be returned to Bill Cronon at wcronon@wisc.edu by no later than 5pm on Friday, April 14: PDF


The syllabus for Fall 2017, which was sdeveloped in dialogue with members of this year's seminar, can be viewed here: PDF

Additional Readings:

Cronon, "Kennecott Journey" PDF