Environmental History Advising Program

Introduction

Environmental historians study the intersection of the natural world and the human, or historical, world. They seek to understand both how we have tried to control or engineer the environment, and also how the environment shapes us. History faculty have worked on diverse projects from agriculture in early America to monsoons and migration around the Bay of Bengal, and from the effects of climate on ancient societies to modern responses to the changing landscape of southeastern Ghana. In these works and others, Harvard historians explore the dynamic relationship between natural and culture, an interplay that often minimizes clear distinctions between the two.

Environmental historians use a vast array of sources in their research. Their primary sources include written texts—essential to all historical research—and also less commonly used records, such as the visual and the archeological. Increasingly, environmental historians also use scientific evidence, such as a climate data, in their arguments. Combining natural and written archives enables environmental historians to make important contributions to other historical subfields, such as imperial and social history, and also to join multidisciplinary conversations about humans and the environment.

Like their interlocutors in other departments, historians recognize and explore distinctions in temporal categories used to describe long-term history. Scientists and historians alike differentiate between the Holocene, the geological epoch inhabited by humans, and the Anthropocene, the period in which humans became an ecological actor able to effect geological change. Whether describing the Holocene or the Anthropocene, environmental historians foreground a sense of contingency in their analyses of how the natural world affects society and culture. As a result, environmental history is an important intervention in the very scope of historical writing, expanding its analytical frame to include subjects once beyond the purview of history.

Courses

Tentative Course Offerings

Please be sure to check the Courses section of the History Website for more information on which of these courses count towards the History concentration and secondary field.

 Full Year

Graduate Seminar: History 2468hf - The Environment and the American Past: Seminar (84483) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Full Year 2013-2014    
Joyce E. Chaplin, Lawrence Buell, and Robin E. Kelsey 

 

Fall

Gen Ed Gateway Course: Societies of the World 51 - Politics of Nature (0710) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Fall 2013-2014    
Ajantha Subramanian (Anthropology) 

Anthropology 2713 - Economic Rights and Wrongs
 (91647) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Fall 2013-2014    
Kerry R. Chance 

Cities and Environmental Change (SES 0534200 – Section 00) 
Harvard Graduate School of Design    Fall 2013    
Joyce Klein Rosenthal 

Critical Conservation as Social Activism: History, Theory, and Methods (DES 0347400 – Section 00) 
Harvard Graduate School of Design    Fall 2013    
Jana Cephas 

History and Theory of Urban Interventions
 (HIS 0411500 – Section 00) 
Harvard Graduate School of Design    Fall 2013    
Neil Brenner 

History of Science 197 - Nature, Environment, and the Understanding of Space
(69934) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Fall 2013-2014    
Jeanne Marie Haffner 

Studies of the Built North American Environment: 1580 to the Present (HIS 0410500 – Section 00) 
Harvard Graduate School of Design    Fall 2013    
John Stilgoe 

 

Spring

History 60c - The Nature of Modern China: Space, Science, and Environment(84665) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Spring 2013-2014    
Sakura Christmas 

History 97a - What is the History of Medicine?
 (69581) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Spring 2013-2014    
Emmanuel K. Akyeampong 

History 97d - What is Environmental History?
 (45123) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Spring 2013-2014    
Joyce E. Chaplin 

A History of Nature Conservation and Cultural Landscape Preservation: Where do they intersect today in urban centers and beyond? (HIS 0444600 – Section 00)
Harvard Graduate School of Design    Spring 2014    
Mark Laird 

History of Science 231 - Transforming Technologies: Science, Technology, and Social Change
 (64715) 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences    Spring 2013-2014    
Naomi Oreskes 

Mapping the Russian Empire
 (HIST E-1551 (23871)) 
Harvard Extension School    Spring 2014    
Kelly O'Neill PhD, Associate Professor of History, Harvard University 

Rethinking the Legal and Ethical Status of Humans, Animals, and the Environment (2545) 
Harvard Law School    Spring 2014    
Jeff Skopek 

 

Summer

Environmental Crises and State Collapse: Lessons from the Past
 (ANTH S-1060 (32857)) 
Harvard Summer School    Summer 2014    
James J. Truncer PhD, Visiting Research Scholar in Anthropology, Brandeis University 

Nature, Environment, and the Understanding of Space
 (HSCI S-197 (33180)) 
Harvard Summer School    Summer 2014    
Jeanne Haffner PhD, Lecturer on the History of Science, Harvard University