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BHIS 1815A - Earth 2.0 : The Environmental History of the Modern World

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 48

Language of tuition : English


There are no prerequisites for this course. Class attendance and participation are mandatory. All readings and assignments are due in English.

Course Description

We have entered a new geological epoch in the history of planet Earth, which is irreversibly marked by the presence and activity of humankind: The Anthropocene. The entire Earth system has shifted to a new mode - ‘Earth 2.0' - in which humans are a major geological influence and whose outcomes are uncertain and worrisome. Environmental history offers a unique perspective to understand the roots and implications of this condition, by showing how humans and the rest of nature have coevolved through history. This course will thus explore the environmental history of the modern world to understand the making of Earth 2.0. We will look at key processes of global history, from European colonial expansion to industrialization, from the perspective of their ecological underpinnings and impact. By looking at these apparently well-known chapters of our human past from this perspective, we will see that each one of them involved (and is partly explained by) a major rearrangement of human-environment interaction, and represented a step in the construction of Earth 2.0. Through this exploration, we will also learn more about the field of environmental history itself, its main themes and methodological strengths, and its contribution to present-day environmental debates. Students will gain a clear knowledge of the major themes of global environmental history with a particular focus on the last two centuries, the ability to orient themselves through international debates, and the ability to apply the methods and perspectives of the discipline to their own knowledge goals.


PARRINELLO, Giacomo (Assistant Professor)

Course validation

Students will be evaluated on a mid-term and a final exam based on the content of readings and lectures (30%), on class participation and short reading notes (30%), and on a term paper (40%).


Selected readings (one article or chapter per week). Week 2: W. Cronon, “A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative”, The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 4 (Mar., 1992), pp. 1347-1376. Week 3: M. Fisher-Kowalski, H. Haberl, “Conceptualizing, observing and comparing socioecological transitions”, in M. Fischer-Kowalski and H. Haberl (eds.), Socioecological Transitions and Global Change: Trajectories of Social Metabolism and Land Use, Edward Elgar Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA 2007: 1-30. Week 4: A. Crosby, “Ecological Imperialism: The Overseas Migration of Western Europeans as a Global Phenomenon”, in D. Worster, The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History, Cambridge University Press 1993, pp.103-118. Week 5. T. Zeller and S. Pritchard, “The Nature of Industrialization,” in M. Reuss and S. H. Cutcliffe (eds.), The Illusory Boundary: Environment and Technology in History, University of Virginia Press 2010, 69-100. Week 6: S. Barles, “Urban Metabolism of Paris and Its Region.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 13, no. 6 (December 1, 2009): 898–913. Week 7: J.C. Scott, Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale University Press 1998, chapters 1 and 3. Week 8: M. Evenden, “Aluminium, Commodity Chains, and the Environmental History of the Second World War,” Environmental History 16, 1 (2011): 69-93.  Week 9: R. Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History, New York: Lehman 2000, chapters 5 and 6. Week 10: R. Fleischer, Soylent Green, 1973 (Movie). Week 11: D. Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses” Critical Inquiry 35, 2 (2009): 197–222. Week 12: G. Bankoff: “Time is of the Essence Disasters, Vulnerability and History,” International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 22, no. 3 (2004): 23-42.