HISTORY 7303 (5326) — SPRING 2018

Nature and History in America

Dr. Mark Stoll

HH 135 mark.stoll@ttu.edu http://www.markstoll.net
Office hours:
Tuesday 12:30–1:00 p.m., Thursday 9:30–10:50 a.m., and by appointment

Course Description

Environmental history is one of the more recent fields in history and is today the fastest growing in the world. 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 a significant recent theme in recent American environmental historiography. Everyone will read all assigned works with care and critical attention, coming to class ready to engage in active discussion. In reading, seek out the book or article’s key thesis (and be able to 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 (identifying 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 JSTOR, America: History and Life and ArticleFirst. Book Review Digest is a more general but often useful resource that is available via the Databases A-Z link on the library homepage (select “Find Databases” from the dropdown menu).

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 6:00-7:50) critically assessing the core study. Following a 10-minute break, one student will present a summary and critique of a second, supplementary work (20-25 minutes). Then we will close with comparative comments and thoughts on research initiatives this discussion has opened up.

We start on January 23 with introductions to each other and to the course. Then on January 30 we will begin with the first book, by Sam White. You will sign up for a second book on the first day of class.


Weekly Notes

To promote discussions of substance, each student will write notes over the week’s reading (not required of the second book, however). These notes should cover important contents and points each week’s book makes, as well as many of the points mentioned above in connection with reading strategies. Aim to make them a good resource for future reference for such purposes as papers or comprehensive exams.

Very importantly, add comments of your own as they occur to you during the reading. Set them off in some obvious manner (e.g., with an asterisk or in a different font, or in some other way). These comments can be of any sort of thing that occurs to you, such as comments, connections to other things you’ve read in this or other classes, disagreements with the author, or other thoughts that the text may inspire. Students will hand in a copy of their notes each week. Your notes are not a polished paper; rather, they demonstrate to me your understanding of and interaction with the text. Also, the notes do not need to be extensive or many pages long to do the job.

Grading of the notes will be on the following basis:
A: Good, complete, useful notes, with comments
B: Good notes, but unsatisfactory or missing comments
C: Poor or incomplete notes


Students will write two historiographical-type papers over the books read together and those presented to class. The papers will discuss selected books and bring out their themes, evidence, strengths, weaknesses, and so forth, and analyze ways they complement, conflict with, or advance over each other. The papers are due in class after Spring Break and in my office by 5:00 p.m. on the last day of finals.

Use 12-point Times Roman or Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 1" margins all around, or 1-1/4" margins right and left, with page numbers in the margin. Do not add extra space between paragraphs. If your word-processing program does that automatically, adjust the Paragraph settings. Footnotes and bibliography are not required, but if used, must conform to Turabian standards. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is widely available at most bookstores and in the reference section of libraries.

Graduate-level writing should have no major problems in grammar and punctuation. If you suspect your paper is weak in those areas, I strongly encourage you to ask for help from the University Writing Center, which can either help you online or in person.


Students will select one book on the first day of class to present to the class. A presentation should inform the rest of the class about the book’s contents, author, and significance. No great research is necessary, but reference to book reviews, historiographies, and similar works would be necessary to gauge the full importance of a work. Read or consult a biography of the author. The purpose of these presentations is to acquaint the class well enough with works of foundational literature familiar that they could discuss them intelligently in a paper. I highly recommend that students practice their presentations before class, to make sure that the presentation is strong and fits within the time allotted. The class would be expected to take notes over the presentations.

Grading of presentations will be on the basis of the cogency and clarity of the presentation as well as coverage of the main points mentioned above. Presentations that run longer than 25 minutes will be docked a letter grade.

Book Paper

Each student will write one paper over the book he or she chose to present in class. The paper will discuss the book’s main argument or purpose, its historical context, its author and his or her significance, and the its reception, impact, and place in the literature of religion and American history. Students should consult contemporary and modern reviews, a biography and other relevant secondary sources, articles, and other secondary literature to construct this paper of 6 to 8 pages in length. Databases that could be helpful include ArticleFirst, JSTOR, America: History and Life, Biography Index, Dictionary of Literary Biography, C19, Making of America, Historic New York Times and other historic newspaper databases, and, for earlier works, Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Early English Books Online. The primary goal is the fullest possible expansion of the work’s significance.

Use 12-point Times Roman or Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 1" margins all around, or 1-1/4" margins right and left, with page numbers in the margin. Use a cover page. Footnotes and bibliography must conform to Turabian standards. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is widely available at most bookstores and in the reference section of libraries.

The book paper will be due in class THREE WEEKS AFTER YOUR PRESENTATION.


Grades for this course will be based 45% on your papers, 25% on your notes, 10% on your presentation, and 20% on the quality of your contributions to class discussion.


White, Sam. A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Cronon, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York: Hill and Wang, 1983.

Malm, Andreas. Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam-Power and the Roots of Global Warming. London: Verso, 2016.

Cushman, Gregory T. Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

McNeill, J. R. Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World. New York: Norton, 2000.

Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Loomis, Erik. Empire of Timber: Labor Unions and the Pacific Northwest Forests. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Stradling, David, and Richard Stradling. Where the River Burned: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Save Cleveland. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015.

Elmore, Bartow J. Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism. New York: Norton, 2015.

Wells, Christopher W. Car Country: An Environmental History. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012.

Zelko, Frank S. Make It a Green Peace!: The Rise of Countercultural Environmentalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Steinberg, Ted. Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Dieterich-Ward, Allen. Beyond Rust: Metropolitan Pittsburgh and the Fate of Industrial America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

Jones, Christopher F. Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014.

Second Books (list to choose from on first day of class)

Cotton Mather, The Christian Philosopher

William Bartram, Travels

Susan Fenimore Cooper, Rural Hours

Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

George Perkins Marsh, Man and Nature

John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons

John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra or The Yosemite or Travels in Alaska

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

Bill McKibben, The End of Nature

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Note: Any student who intends to observe a religious holy day should make that intention known to the instructor prior to the absence.  A student who is absent from class for the observance 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.  See University Standard Operating Procedure 34.19.
Note: Any student who, because of a disability, may require special arrangements in order to meet the course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make any necessary arrangements. Students should present appropriate verification from Student Disability Services during the instructor’s office hours. Please note: instructors are not allowed to provide classroom accommodations to a student until appropriate verification from Student Disability Services has been provided. For additional information, please contact Student Disability Services in West Hall or call 806-742-2405.

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.



Course Schedule

Jan 23


Jan 30

White, A Cold Welcome

Feb 6

Cronon, Changes in the Land; second book: Chi Ha, Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma

Feb 13

Malm, Fossil Capital

Feb 20

Cushman, Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World

Feb 27

McNeill, Something New Under the Sun

Mar 6

Worster, Dust Bowl

Mar 13


Mar 20

Loomis, Empire of Timber

Mar 27

Stradling and Stradling. Where the River Burned
Paper 1 due

Apr 3

Elmore, Citizen Coke

Apr 10

Wells, Car Country

Apr 17

Zelko, Make It a Green Peace!

Apr 24

Steinberg, Acts of God

May 1

Dieterich-Ward, Beyond Rust

May 8

Jones, Routes of Power

May 15

Paper 2 due