Spring 2025 | Asia, Africa, and Europe Exploration

HIST 470 World Environmental History, 1500-Present

Overview of Course

Why is planet Earth facing environmental calamity, and what are people and nations doing to move the world toward environmental justice and sustainability? HIST 470 will tackle this question through historical inquiry into human interactions with nature from the fifteenth century to the present, highlighting dynamics of change in the port cities we visit. HIST 470 will examine three distinct eras. First, we will study human-environmental interactions in the Age of Exploration (1400s to 1700s) as European rulers pursued vast wealth beyond their kingdoms, using new sailing technologies and trade systems to find and exploit natural resources and human labor in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Next, HIST 470 will examine the Age of Industrialization (1800s-early 1900s) as modern science and mechanized industry facilitated the expansion of Europe’s imperial empires. The relationship between humans and nature underwent intensive alteration, though change looked different in the imperial capitals of London, Paris, and Berlin than in the colonies of India, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Saharan Africa. Third, HIST 470 will consider the Anthropocene, the era spanning the 20th and 21st centuries, characterized by deepening environmental injustice and degradation related to wars, fossil fuels, land and water exploitation, mass consumption, and post-colonial global inequities. We will end HIST 470 by studying recent and contemporary interventions for reform, looking for inspiration and faith in the future by considering bold efforts to regulate industry, protect biodiversity, improve public health, and promote energy sources and consumer habits that sustain human society and the natural world.