HISTORY 5326 FALL 2005

American Environmental History

Dr. Mark Stoll

HH 135     742-1004 ext. 250
stoll@ttu.edu     http://www2.tltc.ttu.edu/stoll
Office hours: Wednesday 2:00-3:00 and Thursday 11:00-12:00
and by appointment

Course Description

This course is a graduate level introduction to significant scholarship in American environmental history, from the pre-colonial era to the present. We will meet for weekly discussions, focusing on historical interpretations, themes, and conceptualizations, with special attention to sources, argumentation, and methods employed in research and exposition. By the end of the semester you will have a solid foundation in the field.

Readings and Coursework

I have carefully selected readings to cover major themes in the American environmental historiography, to expose you to representative works of important scholars, and in sum to constitute a very good starter or reference library of environmental history for your bookshelf. Everyone will read all assigned works with care and critical attention, coming to class ready to engage in active discussion. In addition, you will be asked to write a short (2-4 pp.) paper on nine of the fourteen core monographs. In reading, seek out the book or article's key thesis (and summarize it in a few sentences). Also, you should be alert to its structure and rhetoric, note the claims made for advances over previous studies (relationship to the "literature"), and sketch out the conceptual or theoretical apparatus employed (identify "keywords" and the ways they are employed). Finally, you should assess the work's evidentiary base, the scope and scale of the study within the context of the issues and events it addresses, and its relationship with other aspects of American history. Analysis of the book in this way prepares you for critical discussion and clear writing. Ideally you should each come to class with several questions written out for us to address as a group; I will have a sizable list of such questions as well, so we should have ample resources to work from.

Book reviews can aid the reading process. Look for them especially in such major journals as the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Reviews in American History, and H-Net (Humanities Online), along with such specialized journals as Environmental History and Environment and History. You can access on-line and hardcopy indexes to journal articles at the library, and many of these journals are available through the Internet or the library Website, particularly through the databases America: History and Life and ArticleFirst. Book Review Digest is a more general but often useful resource that is available via the "Find Articles" link on the library homepage.

Class Organization

The structure of the course centers on a core book each week, fourteen monographs in all. Each week we will spend the first two-thirds of our time (roughly 3:00-4:40) critically assessing the core study. Following a 15-minute break, one student will present a summary and critique of a second, supplementary work that relates to the main book (20-25 minutes). Then we will close with comparative comments and thoughts on research initiatives this discussion has opened up.

We start on August 31 with introductions to each other and to the course. Then on September 7th we will begin with the first book. The number of presentations will depend on the number of students signed up for the course: if fewer than 7, each will do two; if more, each will do one. The total number of presentations then will vary. You will sign up for a second book on the first day of class.


All class members may take five "vacation days" from writing during the term. Simply hand in a sheet of paper with your name and "vacation day" typed on it, instead of the paper. You may well wish to correlate your days off with your presentation dates. I will distribute suggested paper topics, but you may write on a topic of your own devising if you wish. Should you create your own paper topic, it must not be in the form of a basic summation of the text, but instead should be either critical or comparative. (You may assume that I have read the book and do not need it summarized.)

Unless some disaster intervenes, I will return all papers at the next class session, with comments and grades. If the initial version of your paper is in need of substantial work to meet graduate level standards, I will return it to you with an "R" designation (for rewrite), then will grade the revised version when it is re-submitted the following week.


Grades for this course will be based 60% on your writing, 10% on your presentation, and 30% on the quality of your contributions to class discussion. For double presenters, the proportions will be 50, 20, and 30. Thus participation in discussions is critical.

Course Schedule

Aug 31 Introduction
Sep 7 American Indians
Shepard Krech, The Ecological Indian (1999)
Second book: Richard White, The Roots of Dependency (1982)
Sep 14 New England
William Cronon, Changes in the Land (1983)
Second book: Brian Donahue, The Great Meadow (2004); or Carolyn Merchant, Ecological Revolutions: Nature, Gender, and Science in New England (1989)
Sep 21 The South
Mart A. Stewart, "What Nature Suffers to Groe" (1996)
Second book: Mikko Saikku, This Delta, This Land (2005)
Sep 28 Agriculture
Donald Worster, Dust Bowl (1979)
Second book: Steven Stoll, Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America (2002)
Oct 5 Urban and Social Issues
Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities (1995)
Second book: Martin Melosi, The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present (2000)
Oct 12 The Environmental Movement
Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 4th ed. (1982)
Second book: Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring (1993)
Oct 19 American Environmental Politics
Samuel Hays, Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985 (1987)
Second book: Samuel P. Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (1959)
Oct 26 Nature and Culture
Jennifer Price, Flight Maps (1999)
Second book: Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500-1800 (1983); or Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite (1959)
Nov 2 Autos, Suburbs, and Environmentalism
Adam Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism (2001)
Second book: Paul S. Sutter, Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (2002)
Nov 9 Rivers and Water
Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River (1995)
Second book: Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (1986; rev. ed. 1993)
Nov 16 War and the Natural World
Edmund Russell, War and Nature (2001)
Second book: Richard P Tucker, and Edmund Russell, eds., Natural Enemy, Natural Ally: Toward an Environmental History of Warfare (2004)
Nov 23 Religion and Nature
Carolyn Merchant, Reinventing Eden: The Fate of Nature in Western Culture (2003)
Second book: Mark Stoll, Protestantism, Capitalism, and Nature in America (1997)
Nov 30 Forests and Trees
Nancy Langston, Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares (1995)
Second book: Paul Hirt, A Conspiracy of Optimism (1994)
Dec 7 Tragedy of the Commons? Fish
Arthur F. McEvoy, The Fisherman's Problem: Ecology and Law in the California Fisheries, 1850-1980 (1986)
Second book: Joseph E. Taylor, Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis (1999)

Americans With Disabilities Act: Any student 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 for Disabled Students Services, Dean of Students Office.

Student Absence for Observation of Religious Holy Days: A student who is absent from classes for the observation of a religious holy day shall be allowed to take an examination or complete an assignment scheduled for that day within a reasonable time after the absence if, not later than the fifteenth day after the first day of the semester, the student had notified the instructor of each scheduled class that the student would be absent for a religious holy day.

The professor reserves the right to change this syllabus at his discretion. Changes will be announced in class and posted at the Web address listed above.

This page was last updated on Monday August 22, 2005 03:14 PM.