H/HPS 130

Technology and Environment in America

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
As climate change has become an increasingly heated topic around the world, Americans across political and professional arenas often invoke technology as both a cause and potential solution. In American culture, an enthusiasm for innovation often overshadows the messier ways that humans interact with our surroundings through the artifacts and technologies that we create. In this course, we will examine the interplay between environment and technology in America, from before the arrival of Europeans on the North American continent through present debates about our changing planet. We will consider the boundaries that different groups have drawn between natural and artificial, and how these definitions have shaped the cultural, political, and material landscape of America. How useful are these boundaries? How might challenging them help us rethink America's history and its future? In this seminar, students will practice using the tools and methods of history to make a clear, persuasive argument. Each student will choose a relevant term project topic in consultation with the instructor. Assignments throughout the term will cumulatively build into an original piece of writing grounded in primary and secondary source research. In class, we will read and discuss texts that explore intersections of technology and the environment in American history, both to learn about the substance of these texts but also to gain insight on how to craft effective, readable historical writing. Students will learn how to use archival materials, practice critically analyzing historical texts, and participate in the discussion, debate, and consensus necessary to build a dynamic understanding of the past.
Instructor: Rand

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