History 3XXX: History of War and the Environment

Sample Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Jim Harris

Email: harris.1631@osu.edu


Office Hours:


Course Description


This course offers an advanced study of the relationship between war and the environment. While this course will pay close attention to the ways in which warfare has had a profound impact on physical landscapes, altered ecologies and created militarized “environments,” we will also consider how the relationship between war the environment has shaped politics, economics and human ideologies. We will further consider how warfare has altered how societies use and allocate natural resources, such as land, energy sources, and water. By the end of this course, students will understand how the natural world is more than just a setting for war, but rather that it is an active agent in the relationship between war and the environment.


Required Readings


  • Charles E. Closmann, ed., War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2009).


  • Richard P. Tucker and Edmund Russell, ed., Natural Enemy, Natural Ally: Towards and Environmental History of War (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2004).


  • Additional readings available online


Course Assignments & Requirements



  • Response Papers (15% ea.): Students will write two short (4-5 page) response papers on a choice of prompts. These papers will invite you to answer a question based on your critical understanding of the course materials.




  • Midterm Exam (20%): Students will write one in-class final exam that will include both a short answer section (identifications) and a choice of essay questions that ask you to synthesize a theme from the course.



  • Research Paper (30%): At the end of the semester students will complete a research paper (10-12 pages) based on a mix of primary and secondary sources about ANY topic (approved by the instructor) that examines the relationship between war and the environment.


  • Research Paper Prospectus (5%): Students will present a short (2-3 page) prospectus of their topic as a preliminary stage of writing their term paper.


  • Participation (15%): Participation makes up a large portion of the final grade and is taken very seriously. Students should demonstrate that they are engaged with the course by attending all sessions and adding thoughtfully to discussions. Students should come to class have done the assigned reading and prepared to discuss it with thoughtful questions and analysis. Pop reading quizzes may be given if students do not appear to have engaged with the material, which will count towards participation.




Grade scale:

A (93-100), A- (90-92), B+ (87-89), B (82-86), B- (80-82), C+ (77-79), C (73-76), C-(70-72), D+ (67-69), D (63-66), D- (60-62) E (below 60).  


Essays: An A paper will make a compelling argument in answer to the prompt (i.e. it has a strong and clear thesis), makes thorough use of specific and well thought out evidence, and will be free of grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. A B paper will make a less analytical argument, relies more on summary than analysis when providing evidence in answer to the prompt and has a few grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. A C paper will do little to advance an argument, provides little evidence or no evidence of thought, and has serious mechanical errors. A D paper has little to no argument, misuses or misreads evidence, and is fraught with basic mechanical errors. A E paper shows no engagement with the course material or the terms of the assignment or fails to meet the basic standards of college-level work.


Other Course Policies & Procedures


On Email: Students should feel free to contact the instructor at any point during the semester if they have questions about the course or about history more generally (of course I am happy to meet during office hours as well!). E-mail is the quickest way to contact the instructor with pressing questions, but major concerns should be reserved for office hours. When you e-mail, please be sure to put the course # (History 3xxx) in the subject line, begin with a respectful salutation (“Dear Dr. Harris”), and be sure sign your name.


On Feedback: Instructors will reply to e-mails by the end of the following school day. Note that this means emails sent on over the weekend may not be answered until the following Monday evening. Instructors will check and reply to messages in the discussion boards at least every 48 hours on school days. For major assignments you can generally expect feedback within 10 days.


On Make-Up Assignments:  Students will be allowed to make up major assignments without penalty only in the event of a documented family or medical emergency. In accordance with departmental policy, the student must present documentation of the reason he/she had failed to submit the assignment in a timely manner and documentation must be given to the instructor no more than a week after the scheduled assignment. Late assignments will otherwise be penalized 10% per day late.


Academic Misconduct



Quizzes and exams: You must complete all quizzes and exams yourself, without any external help or communication. You may use your own typed or written notes during quizzes and exams but not anyone else’s.


Written assignments: Your written assignments, including discussion posts, should be your own original work. In formal essays, you should follow the Chicago Manual of Style “notes and bibliography” format to cite the ideas and words of your research sources (see:

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide- 1.html).


Reusing past work: In general, you are prohibited in university courses from turning in work from a past class to your current class even if you modify it. If you want to build on past research or revisit a topic you’ve explored in previous courses, please discuss the situation with me.


Schedule of Lectures and Assignments

NB: Readings are listed on the days that they are DUE.


Week 1: Introduction


Introduction to the Course


Understanding Military-Environmental History

  • Closmann, Introduction
  • Tucker and Russell, Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 15-41.


Week 2: War and the Environment in the Ancient World


Classical Warfare and the Environment

  • J. Donald Hughes “War and Environment in the Ancient World” in The Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World, Brian Campbell and Lawrence A. Tritle, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 128-142.


The Middle East

  • Edmund Burke III, “The Transformation of the Middle Eastern Environment, 1500 B.C.E.—2000 C.E.,” in The Environment and World History, eds. Edmund Burke III and Kenneth Pomeranz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 81-91.


Week 3: Pre-Industrial War: West and East


Pre-Industrial Warfare in Europe: Damaging Ecosystems and Consuming Resources

  • John Landers, “The Destructiveness of Pre-Industrial Warfare,” Journal of Peace Research 42 (July 2005): 455-70
  • Jurgen Brauer and Hubert van Tuyll, Castles, Battles and Bombs: How Economics Explains Military History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 49-72.


Land Use, Animals and War in Central and South Asia

  • Tucker and Russell, Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 42-64
  • Denis Sinor, Inner Asia and Its Contacts with Medieval Europe (London: Variorum, 1977), 171-183.


Week 4: Colonial Contacts


The New World

  • R. Brian Ferguson and Neil L. Whitehead, “The Violent Edge of Empire,” in War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare, eds. R. Brian Ferguson and Neil L. Whitehead (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1992), 1-30.


Colonial Africa

  • Tucker and Russell, Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 65-92.


Week 5: Nationalizing Warfare, 1789-1914 in Europe

Response Paper 1 Due


France from the Wars of Napoleon to World War I

  • Chris Pearson, Mobilizing Nature: The Environmental History of War and Militarization in Modern France (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012), 38-64.


Engineering the German Landscapes


  • David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2006), 189-249.



Week 6: The American Civil War


The American Civil War

  • Tucker and Russell, Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 93-109.
  • Closmann, War and the Environment, ch. 3


Midterm Exam


Week 7: Imperialism and the Environment


Imperial Ecologies


  • Thomas R. Dunlap, “Creation and Destruction in Landscapes of Empire” in City, Country, Empire: Landscapes in Environmental History, eds. Jeffry M. Diefendorf and Kurk Dorsey (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press), 207-225.
  • David Arnold, The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture and European Expansion, (Cambridge: Wiley-Blackwell, 1996), 169-187



Imperial Resources


  • Closmann, War and the Environment, ch. 2
  • Tucker and Russell, Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 110-141.



Week 8: World War I: Impacts and Legacies


Total War


  • Closmann, War and the Environment, ch. 4
  • Tucker and Russell, Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 142-174.



Environmental Legacies


  • Frank Uekötter, “Memories in the Mud: The Environmental Legacy of the Great War” in Environmental Histories of the First World War, eds. Richard P. Tucker, Tait Keller, J.R. McNeill and Martin Schmid (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 278-295.


  • Joseph Hupy, “Verdun, France: Examining the Effects of Warfare on the

Physical Landscapes” in Military Geography: From Peace to War, eds. Eugene Joseph Palka, Francis A. Galgano (Boston, MA: McGraw Hill Custom Publishing, 2005).


Week 9: World War II in Europe

Term Paper Prospectus Due


Total War (Again)


  • Closmann, ch. 8-9



Fascist Environmentalism

  • Closmann, War and the Environment, ch. 5-6
  • Simo Laakonen, “Environmental Policies of the Third Reich” in The Long Shadows: A Global Environmental History of the Second World War, eds. Simo Laakkonen, Richard Tucker and Timo Vuorisalo (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2017), 55-74.


Week 10: World War II in Asia


Pacific Environments


  • Tucker and Russell, Natural Enemy, Natural Ally, 195-251.



Atomic Legacies

    • Julius London and Gilbert F. White, eds., The Environmental Effects of Nuclear War (Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1984), 1-17.


  • Mark D. Merlin and Richardo M. Gonzalez, “Environmental Impacts of Nuclear Testing in Remote Oceania, 1946-1996” in Environmental Histories of the Cold War, John R. McNeill and Corinna R. Unger, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 167-202.



Week 11: The Cold War Environment

Response Paper 2 Due


Early Cold War Environmentalism

  • Stephen Brain, “The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature,” Environmental History 15 (October 2010): 670–700.
  • Jens Ivo Engels, “Modern Environmentalism,” in The Turning Points in Environmental History, Frank Uekoetter, ed. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), 119-31.


Militarization and Hydropower during the Early Cold War

  • Paul Josephson, “Rivers as Enemies of the People: Nature, the USSR and the Cold War” in Environmental Histories of the Cold War, John R. McNeill and Corinna R. Unger, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 21-49.
  • Richard Tucker, “American Strategic Interests and the Spread of High Dams in the Early Cold War, 1945-1960” in Environmental Histories of the Cold War, John R. McNeill and Corinna R. Unger, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 139-63.


Week 12: Korea and Vietnam


The Korean War and the Environment


  • Lisa Brady, “Life in the DMZ: Turning a Diplomatic Failure into an Environmental Success,” Diplomatic History 32 (2008): 585-611.



Vietnam and Agent Orange

  • David Zierler, “Against Protocol: Ecocide, Détente, and the Question of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam, 1969-1975,” in Environmental Histories of the Cold War, John R. McNeill and Corinna R. Unger, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 227-256.


Week 13: Civil Wars and Resource Wars


Civil Wars: Lessons from Latin America and Africa

  • Maria D. Alvarez, “Forests in the Time of Violence: Conservation Implications of the Colombian War,” in War and Tropical Forests: Conservation in Areas of Armed Conflict Steven V. Price, ed. (New York: Haworth Press, 2003), 49-70.
  • Emmanuel Kreike, “War and the Environmental Effects of Displacement in Southern Africa (1970s-1990s),” in African Environment and Development, William G. Moseley and B. Ikubolajeh Logan, eds. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 89-110.


Resource Wars: Battles for Oil and Water

  • Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (New York: Henry Holt, 2001), 51-80, 138-160.


Week 14: The Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars


War and the Environment in the Modern Middle East

  • O. Linden and T. Husain, “Impact of Wars: The Gulf War, 1990-91,” in The Gulf Ecosystem: Health and Sustainability, N. Y. Khan, M. Munawar and A.R.G. Price, eds. (Leiden: Backhuys, 2002), 279-90.


Afghanistan and the Environment

  • Maxwell Cameron, Robert Lawson and Brian Tomlin, eds., To Walk Without Fear: The Global Movement to Ban Land Mines (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 19998), 1-19.


Week 15: The Military and the Environment: Contemporary Trends


Military Environmental Management

  • Robert Durant, The Greening of the U.S. Military: Environmental Policy, National Security, and Organizational Change (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2007), 40-51, 77-91.
  • Peter Coates, Tim Cole, Marianna Dudley, and Chris Pearson, “Defending Nation, Defending Nature?  Militarized Landscapes and Military Environmentalism in Britain, France, and the United States,” Environmental History 16 (July 2011): 456-491.


Conclusions and Discussions


Research Paper Due: Final Exam Time