Environment and Empire in the Modern World

HC 232H

Professor: Mark Carey

This is the second course in a sequence in global history that examines how ideas about nature and practices of environmental management shaped the modern world from about 1450 to the present. Global empires are a critical part of this history, and as imperial forces extracted commodities and natural resources, they altered labor relations, changed economies, influenced cultures, rearranged political relations, and transformed environments.

The effects on the environment were profound-and continue to be significant right up to the present as people drill for (and spill) oil, drink coffee at Starbucks, use cell phones, visit national parks, do drugs like cocaine, or wear diamond rings. Colonizing powers made great efforts to learn about commodities and natural resources; they studied Asian plants, African geography, Latin American geology, and Caribbean agriculture in order to extract them. The natural sciences were thus intimately connected to imperial expansion and global capitalist economies, as a tool for imperial forces and as an outcome of people's encounters with new plants, animals, landscapes, and societies worldwide.

This course examines these links between environment and empire in global context with a focus on European and U.S. empires in Latin America. Critical thinking and reading, writing, and oral communication will be emphasized.