American Environmental History


Professor Mark Stoll

Holden Hall 135   E-mail: mark.stoll@ttu.edu   Web: http://courses.ttu.edu/mstoll/
Office Hours: Tuesday–Thursday 11:30–12:30 and by appointment


Through lectures, readings, and film, the course explores two evolving topics in American history: the interrelationship and mutual impact of humans with the land and its plant and animal life; and cultural attitudes and thinking about nature and the environment.


William Cronon, Changes in the Land

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt

Donald Worster, Dust Bowl

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma


17.5% ea.

Two midterm examinations


Final examination


Six book quizzes


Analytical book review

Exams: Exams will be essay exams. Students will have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of environmental history as well as to engage issues raised in lectures, discussions, and readings. The final exam will have the same format as midterms, with the addition of a cumulative section.

Book quizzes: Short quizzes given on the discussion day for each book will encourage students to have read the books and be ready to discuss them.

Papers: Course assignments include contains one analytical book review. For each review, students will select a book on environmental history from a bibliography on the professor’s Website. (Note that biographies, edited collections, and collections of essays are not appropriate for the assignment and should not be chosen for the book review.) Students may select another book if the professor approves it. Four to six pages long, the book review will have three sections:

1.      A short summary (not a table of contents or outline) of the book’s contents; this should not take more than a paragraph or two.

2.      An explanation of the book’s thesis, with a discussion of how the author has supported the thesis. The thesis is usually stated in a preface, introduction, or conclusion. If you’re not sure what a book’s thesis is, ask the professor for help.

3.      Most important, an analysis of the book, including: how successful (or unsuccessful) it is in supporting its thesis, the author’s bias (i.e., his point of view), whether it agrees or disagrees with other class material, how it might be improved, how well it is written, and whether you agree with the book’s conclusions.

Papers will be printed in 12-point Times New Roman, double spaced, with 1" margins all around (or 1¼" right and left margins and 1" margins top and bottom). Do not add space between paragraphs (and if your word-processing program does so automatically, adjust the “Paragraph” settings). If you quote directly from the text of your book, cite your source by adding the page number or numbers in parentheses immediately after the quotation. For example:

The poet wrote, “That is the way the world ends” (42).
No footnotes or bibliography are necessary.

Attendance: The professor will call roll at the beginning of each class. Students with a perfect attendance record will receive 3 bonus points on their final grades. Students with more than two absences will receive 1.5 points off their final grades for each absence over two. The instructor will accept excuses in cases of true need if appropriately documented.

Plagiarism: Using text written by someone else (even in a close paraphrase) is academic dishonesty. It is strictly against university and departmental policy. Papers that have been plagiarized in whole or in part receive a 0 for the assignment, and a further penalty of 10 points will be deducted from the student’s final grade average.


Note: Students who, because of a disabling condition, may require some special arrangements in order to meet course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make necessary accommodations. Students should present appropriate verification from the Disabled Students Services in the Dean of Students Office.


The professor reserves the right to change this syllabus at his discretion. Changes will be announced in class and posted on the course Website.


Required Bureaucratic Educational Jargon Section:

Expected Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of this course, the students will be able to (1) demonstrate expanded knowledge of the human condition and human cultures; (2) demonstrate knowledge of the origins and evolution of U.S. environmental problems and issues; (3) describe or identify major events, persons, and themes in American environmental history; (4) think critically about environmental issues.

Assessment of Expected Learning Outcomes: Student learning will be assessed quizzes and exams for outcome 1, 2, 3, and 4, and through essay questions and an analytical book review for outcome 4.




Jan 19


Jan 24

Were Indians environmentalists?

Jan 26

Arrival of the Europeans: ecological imperialism

Jan 31

Reading: Cronon, Changes in the Land

Feb 2

Slavery and the Southern environment

Feb 7

Industrialization and the rise of the cities

Feb 9

American Romanticism

Feb 14

Reading: Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Feb 16

Transformation of the West: The Spanish, Russians, Mormons, and mining

Feb 21

First Midterm Exam

Feb 23

Transformation of the West: Settlement of the Plains and Landscape Art

Feb 28

The Progressive Conservation Movement: First Calls for Conservation

Mar 1

The Progressive Conservation Movement: Conservation Achieved

Mar 6

Reading: Worster, Dust Bowl

Mar 8

The Progressive Conservation Movement: Conservation Achieved, cont.

Mar 10–18

Spring Break

Mar 20

Urban environmental problems

Mar 22

After the Progressives: The 1920s

Mar 27

Reading: Carson, Silent Spring

Mar 29

Second Midterm Exam

Apr 3

The New Deal; The New Science of Ecology

Apr 5

World War, Cold War, and the Environment

Apr 10

The 1960s: The Rise of the Environmental Movement
Book review due

Apr 12

The 1960s: Johnson and the Great Society and Environmental Crisis

Apr 17

The 1970s: A New Mood and a New Will to Act

Apr 19

The 1970s: Nixon, the Environmental President?

Apr 24

Reading: Oreskes, Merchants of Doubt

Apr 26

The 1970s: Carter and the Energy Crisis, Toxic Waste, and Nuclear Power

May 1

The 1980s: Reagan and the End of an Bipartisan Environmentalism

May 3

Environmental Justice; International Solutions to Acid Rain and Ozone Depletion, but Not Global Warming

May 8

Reading: Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

May 14

Monday, 1:30-4:00 p.m.: FINAL EXAM