Environmental History of Modern Warfare Syllabus

Environmental History of Modern Warfare
Proposed Graduate Seminar
Dr. Tom J. Arnold, Professor, Department of History

Course Description:
Any soldier who has marched through rain, snow or heat, or dug a vehicle out of the
mud can tell you that nature can sometimes be an enemy in warfare. Others could
point to how terrain helped them defend a position, or rain grounded the enemy’s
aircraft, making nature an ally. Humans continually try to bend nature to their needs
and desires, a process greatly accelerated with the coming of modern age in the mideighteenth
century. How does this play out in age of mass armies and “total war”?
What is the relationship between warfare and the environment? What areas can we
study to find out?

In this seminar we will seek answers to these and other questions. The course
covers warfare from the eighteenth century to the present, focusing on humanity’s
relationship to the natural world. We will see how this relationship played out
geographically, socially, economically and culturally. The class includes discussion
of natural features (rivers, oceans, mountains etc.), large-scale human activities
(urbanization, industrialization, “total war”, trade, etc.), and ideas (nature
preservation, environmentalism).

The more concrete goal of this seminar is to for each student to produce a 30-40
page research paper, due the last day of class. Creating a successful research paper
requires a significant amount of work, including: identifying a meaningful research
problem; accessing and evaluating sources; and critically and ethically integrating
those sources to craft a compelling argument. Each week we will discuss the
assigned readings on one topic, plus investigate strategies in research and writing.
There will be assignments along the way to help you perform these tasks. This will
be a collaborative effort, so expect to give and receive feedback.

Course Requirements:
Attendance and Participation
Since this is a small, discussion-driven course that meets only once a week,
attending and participating are vital. Complete all the assigned readings and be
ready to discuss, debate and question them in class. Attendance is mandatory!
Repeatedly missing class will negatively affect your grade (at my discretion). If you
know in advance that you have to miss class, or if you are too sick to attend, have a
personal emergency, please inform me as early as possible. Remember: you are still
responsible for the required reading and writing assignments even if you miss class.

Weekly Reading Responses
Every week, you will be asked to write an analytical response to the assigned
readings. These should be approximately 500 words or two double-spaced pages
long, and address at least two of the assigned readings. Since McNeill is primarily
background info, you may address it but it does not count. There will occasionally
be prompts, but for the most part you will be free to write about whatever aspects
interest you the most.
You may skip one week for free, no penalty. You are still responsible for the
You do not have to submit a response paper on the week you lead class

Leading Discussion
Once during the semester, you will be responsible for leading discussion. You will
need to have a good command of the readings, concrete goals for the discussion, and
a flexible plan that will keep the class working toward them.

Final Research Paper
We will start on this in Week 4, but it is advisable to choose a subject earlier rather
than later. As part of the final paper, you will submit:
Preliminary Bibliography: list of sources you think will be useful
Outline/Prospectus: just like it sounds; it should describe the subject of your paper
and how you will organize it.
Rough Draft: later in the semester, you will share this with myself and another
student to get feedback.

Conference Presentation: On the last day of class, each student will give a 15-
minute presentation on their paper, followed by Q&A and discussion. You will
distribute the paper electronically to the class beforehand. Each student will send a
one-page critique to me before class. PowerPoints and handouts are welcome. I will
provide snacks.

Book to Buy:
John R. McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the
Twentieth-Century World
All other readings will be posted as PDF files.

Final Research Paper 50%
(Includes Bibliography, Outline, Rough Draft)
Readings Responses 20%
Leading Discussion 10%
Conference Presentation 10%
Overall Participation in Seminar Discussion 10%
Grade Scale: A (92-100), A-(90-91), B+(88-89), B (82-87), B-(80-81), C+(78-79),
C(72-77), C-(70-71), D+(68-69), D(62-67), D-(60-61), F(0-59)

The purpose of a discussion is to look more closely at the readings and material
covered in lecture, exploring major themes and exchanging opinions and insights.
To that end, discussions are safe, tolerant environments for the free exchange of ideas.
We will at times cover sensitive and/or controversial topics. I expect you to
approach these ideas with civility, respect, and the critical distance appropriate to
an academic setting, communicate your perspectives and arguments with
appropriate sensitivity and sincerity, and respect others’ opinions. This is not Fox
News or MSNBC.

Be ready to ask questions and participate in the discussion. Attendance does not
equal participation. I always encourage questions at any point during the
discussion. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

Classroom Etiquette
Please be courteous of your classmates and instructor by arriving on time, and
turning off all electronic devices (cell phones, iPods, tricorders, etc.) while in
class. Laptops are to be used for note-taking only, and you must obtain my approval
to use them.

If you have any problems or situations that would prevent you from attending class,
submitting questions, or whatever, don’t hesitate to see me. We can discuss it and
take the necessary measures. E-mail is the best way to reach me.

WEEK 1: January 28-Class Introduction, What is Environmental History?
• “Prologue” in McNeill book
• Donald Worster, “Appendix: Doing Environmental History” in Worster, The
Ends of the Earth, 289-307
• Sverker Sörlin and Paul Warde, “The Problem of the Problem of
Environmental History: A Re-Reading of the Field” Environmental History,
Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 2007), pp. 107-130
• John McNeill, “Observations on the Nature and Culture of Environmental
History” History and Theory, Vol. 42, No. 4, Theme Issue 42: Environment and
History (Dec., 2003), pp. 5-43
WEEK 2: War and the Environment-Overview
• John McNeill, “Woods and Warfare in World History.” Environmental History
9.3 (2004): 388-410
• Chris Pearson, “Researching Militarized Landscapes: A Literature Review on
War and the Militarization of the Environment.” Landscape Research 2011, 1-
• Richard P. Tucker, “Introduction” and “The Impact of Warfare on the Natural
World” in Natural Enemy, Natural Ally
• Charles Closmann, “Introduction: Landscapes of Peace, Environments of
War” and J.R. McNeill and David S. Painter, “The Global Environmental
Footprint of the U.S. Military, 1789-2003” in War and the Environment.
• Malvern Lumsden, “Conventional” War and Human Ecology” Ambio, Vol. 4,
No. 5/6, War and Environment: A Special Issue (1975), pp. 223-228
WEEK 3: Landscape & National Identity
• David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making
of Modern Germany, 3-21
• Tait Keller, “The Mountains Roar: The Alps during the Great War”
Environmental History, Vol. 14, No. 2 (April 2009), pp. 253-274
• Marco Armiero, “Nationalizing the Mountains: Nature and Political
Landscapes in World War I” in Marco Armiero and Marcus Hall, eds., Nature
and History in Modern Italy, 231-250
• Thomas Lekan, “The Militarization of Nature and Heimat, 1914-1923” in
Thomas Lekan, Imagining the Nation in Nature: Landscape Preservation and
German Identity, 1885-1945, 74-99.
WEEK 3: The American Civil War
• Mark Fiege, “Gettysburg and the Organic Nature of the Civil War” in Natural
Enemy, Natural Ally, 93-110.
• Lisa M. Brady, “Devouring the Land: Sherman’s 1864-1865 Campaigns,” in
War and the Environment, 49-67.
• Jack Temple Kirby, “The American Civil War: An Environmental View” (2005)
• Excerpts from Lisa M. Brady, War Upon the Land: Nature and Warfare in the
American Civil War
WEEK 4: Imperialism
• David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making
of Modern Germany, 144-161 “Colonizing the Moors”
• K. Sivaramakrishnan, “Histories of Colonialism and Forestry in India” in
Paolo Squatriti ed., Nature’s Past: The Environment and Human History, 103-
• Thomas R. Dunlap, “Creation and Destruction in Landscapes of Empire” in
Jeffry M. Diefendorf and Kurk Dorsey, eds., City, Country, Empire: Landscapes
in Environmental History. 207-225
• Bernhard Gißibl, “German Colonialism And The Beginnings Of International
Wildlife Preservation In Africa” in From Heimat To Umwelt: New Perspectives
On German Environmental History, Bulletin of the German Historical Institute,
2006, 121-144
• David Arnold, The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture and European
Expansion, 169-187 “Colonizing Nature”
WEEK 5: Colonial Wars
• Roger S. Levine, “‘African Warfare in all its Ferocity’: Changing Military
Landscapes and Precolonial and Colonial Conflict in Southern Africa,” in
Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 65-92.
• Thaddeus Sunseri, “Reinterpreting a Colonial Rebellion: Forestry and Social
Control in German East Africa, 1874-1915.” Environmental History 8:3
(2003), 430-451.
• Greg Bankoff, “Wood for War: The Legacy of Human Conflict on the Forests of
the Philippines, 1565-1946,” in War and the Environment, 32-48.
WEEK 6: Urban Environmental History
• McNeill, 50-83, 269-295
• Dieter Schott, “Resources of the City: Towards a European Urban
Environmental History” in Dieter Schott et al eds., Resources of the City:
Contributions to an Environmental History of Modern Europe, 1-27
• Dorothee Brantz, “The Natural Space of Modernity: A Transatlantic
Perspective on (Urban) Environmental History” in Ursula Lehmkuhl and
Hermann Wellenreuther eds., Historians and Nature: Comparative
Approaches to Environmental History
• Bernd Herrmann,“The City in Nature and Nature in the City” in Historians
and Nature
• Peter Thorsheim, “The Corpse in the Garden: Burial, Health, and the
Environment in Nineteenth-Century London,” Environmental History 16
(January 2011): 38–68.
• Dorothee Brantz, “Environments of Death: Trench Warfare on the Western
Front, 1914-1918,” in Closmann, Charles, ed., War and the Environment:
Military Destruction in the Modern Age
• Edmund Russell, “‘Speaking of Annihilation’: Mobilizing for War Against
Human and Insect Enemies, 1914-1945,” in Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 142-
• Roger Chickering, “The War on the Senses”, in Roger Chickering, The Great
War and Urban Life in Germany: Freiburg 1914-1918. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2007
• Joseph Hupy, “Verdun, France: Examining the Effects of Warfare on the
Physical Landscapes”, in Eugene Joseph Palka, Francis A. Galgano, Military
Geography: From Peace To War. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill Custom Publishing,
WEEK 8: WWII in Europe
• Jeffrey M. Diefendorf, “Wartime Destruction and the Postwar Cityscape”, in
War and the Environment, 171-192.
• Simo Laakkonen, “War — An Ecological Alternative to Peace? Indirect Impacts
of World War II on the Finnish Environment,” in Natural Enemy, Natural Ally,
• Chris Pearson, “The Age of Wood: Fuel and Fighting in French Forests 1940-
1944.” Environmental History 11.4 (2006): 775-803.
• G.E. Wood, “Seasonal Mud” and ”Random Mud”, in G.E. Wood, Mud: A Military
History. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2006.
• Lahtinen, Rauno and Vuorisalo, Timo, “”It’s War and Everyone Can Do As
They Please!” An Environmental History of a Finnish City in Wartime”
Environmental History 9:4 (2004) 679-700.
WEEK 9: Fascist Environmentalism
• Franz-Josef Brüggemeier, Mark Cioc and Thomas Zeller, eds., How Green Were
the Nazis?: Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich”, 1-17
• David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making
of Modern Germany, 252-309 “Race and Reclamation”
• Frank Uekoetter, “The Nazis and the Environment-a Relevant Topic?” in Timo
Myllyntaus, ed., Thinking through the Environment: Green Approaches to
Global History, 40-62
• Wilko Graf von Hardenberg, “Act Locally, Think Nationally: A Brief History of
Access Rights and Continental Conflict in Fascist Italy” in Marco Armiero and
Marcus Hall, eds., Nature and History in Modern Italy, 141-158
WEEK 11: WWII in Asia
• William Tsutsui, “Landscapes in the Dark Valley: Toward and Environmental
History of Wartime Japan” in Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 195-216.
• Eugene Palka, “World War II In The Aleutian Islands: Physical Geographic
Challenges in the Battle for Attu”, in Military Geography: From Peace To War..
• Edmund Russell, “Total war (1936-1943)” and “Annihilation (1943-1945)”,
in Edmund Russell, War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with
Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2001.
WEEK 12: The Cold War
• Stephen Brain, “The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature,”
Environmental History 15 (October 2010): 670–700.
• Paul Josephson, “War on Nature as Part of the Cold War: The Strategic and
Ideological Roots of Environmental Degradation in the Soviet Union” in John
R. McNeill and Corinna Unger eds., Environmental Histories of the Cold War,
• Frank Uekoetter, “The End of the Cold War: A Turning Point in
Environmental History?” In McNeill and Unger, Environmental Histories of the
Cold War, 343-351
• Douglas Weiner, The Changing Face of Soviet Conservation” in Worster, The
Ends of the Earth, 252-273
WEEK 13: Limited Wars: Korea and Vietnam
• David Zierler, “Against Protocol: Ecocide, Détente, and the Question of
Chemical Warfare in Vietnam, 1969-1975,” in Environmental Histories of the
Cold War, 227-256.
• David Biggs, “Managing a Rebel Landscape: Conservation, Pioneers and the
Revolutionary Past in the U Minh Forest, Vietnam,” Environmental History
10:3 (2005), 448-476.
• Lisa Brady, “Life in the DMZ: Turning a Diplomatic Failure into an
Environmental Success”, Diplomatic History 32:4 (September 2008) 585-611.
WEEK 14: Resource Wars and The Environmental Legacy of Warfare
• “Wealth Resources, and Power: The Changing Parameters of Global Security”
• “Oil, Geography and War: The Competitive Pursuit of Petroleum Plenty”
• Water Conflict in the Nile Basin”
• “The New Geography of Conflict”
All in: Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict. New
York: Henry Holt, 2001.
WEEK 15: Conference Presentations