HIST 374


Class Days: MWF 9 AM Classroom: Palmer Hall 205

Office Hours: MWF 10-12 and by appointmen


Course Description

Those who do not know the conditions of mountains and

forests, hazardous defiles, marshes and swamps,

cannot conduct the march of an army.

— Sun Tzu, The Art of War


This course investigates how wars have shaped the natural environment and how the natural environment has shaped war in the modern era. More than simply a look at the ravages of war on nature, this course considers the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. Wars fundamentally alter how societies use and allocate natural resources, such as land, energy sources, and water. Students will learn how to critically assess the ecological impact of war, as well as its societal and political repercussions.


Course Objectives

The learning objectives for the course are three-fold:

 The first objective is developing skills in expressing yourself in orally or in writing, with a focus on

improving your oral and written communication.

 The second objective is learning to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of

view, with a focus on sharpening higher level thinking skills.

 Learning about the complex relationship between the environment and warfare fulfills the third

objective, which is gaining factual knowledge (terminology, classifications, methods, trend) and building your knowledge base.


Course Requirements

Grades in the course will be based on several components. The first is spirited participation in the discussions. The second component will be two analytical essays. The third is one film analysis. The forth is a midterm exam, and the last component will be your choice: either a final exam or a research paper on

any topic related to the environmental footprint of war that may interest you.


Attendance and Participation

The success of the course depends on your active participation. I expect you to come to class prepared, having done the assigned reading and eager to participate in the discussion. Active participation means raising useful questions, listening carefully to others, and making thoughtful points about the readings. Unexcused absences will negatively impact your final grade.


Analytical Essays

The two analytical essays will be based on the required readings and themes raised in class; no outside research is necessary. Questions and guidelines for each essay will be posted on moodle. The

essays will be 1300 words in length and double-spaced. In no event should your essay be longer than

1600 words; I look for cogency, not length. A writing style guide will be available on moodle to assist you when you proofread your papers. The essays are due at the beginning of class on the following dates: Monday, Feb. 14 and Monday, April 4.


Film Analysis

Movies have done much to shape our perceptions of war. For this assignment, you will be assigned a topic (for, example, the US Civil War) and write a 600-word analysis of a film on that topic. A list of

films is posted on moodle. If you would like to analyze a film not on that list, please first get my

approval. In your analysis, discuss how the film portrays the environment, what role the environment


plays in war, the ways in which war shapes nature, and your overall assessment of the film. Your analysis is due the week that corresponds to your film. If you analyze a film on the US Civil War, your essay is due the week that we cover the US Civil War in class.


Midterm Examination

The in-class exam will test your mastery of the course material. You are responsible for all material covered in the lectures, discussions, and assigned readings. The exam will be a combination of identifications, map questions, and essay questions. The exam will be held on Monday, Feb. 28.


Option: Final Exam or Research Paper

The final exam will be similar to the midterm in form. The exam will be held on Wednesday, May 4.


If you choose the paper option you will write a concise, literate, well-organized 3000-word research paper on any dimension of modern war and the environment. Additional guidelines for the paper will be posted on moodle. The paper will be due Wednesday, May 4. I ask that you meet with me at some point before the end of March to inform me of your decision.





Attendance and Participation 20%
Analytical Essays 30%
Film Analysis 10%
Midterm exam 15%
Final Exam/Research Paper 25%


The final grade for the class will be established as follows:
Grading Scale:


A   Outstanding

B    Above Average/Very Good

C    Average/Good

D   Below Average/Poor

F    Fail




A (93-100); A- (90-92); B+ (87-89); B (83-86); B- (80-82); C+ (77-79); C (73-76); C- (70-72) and so on. Any number below 60 will be marked as an F


*NOTE: All assignments must be completed to pass the course. Failure to complete any of the course requirements by Wednesday, May 4 may result in a final course grade of F.


Required Texts


Richard Tucker and Edmund Russell, eds., Natural Enemy, Natural Ally


Charles Closmann, ed., War and the Environment


Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness Donovan Webster, Aftermath Edmund Russell, War and Nature

Judith Shapiro, Mao’s War Against Nature


All of these titles are on sale at the bookstore and on reserve in the library. You can also find all these books used (read: much cheaper) at online bookstores, including addall.com, alibris.com, amazon.com, and half.com. You are welcome to read these books in any edition, condition, or language.





Many of the wars of this [20th] century were about oil, but the wars of the next century will be about water.

–Ismail Serageldin

Former World Bank Vice President


Course Policies – read these all carefully


Special Needs and Accommodations: I am strongly committed to accommodating students with disabilities, and ask your cooperation in making sure that I am aware of any such accommodation you might need. All accommodation requests are the responsibility of the student. For more information, please contact Student Disability Services (SDS) to alert them of any needs you may have.


Food, Drink, Tobacco: Drink is permitted in my classroom, but food and tobacco products of all kinds are prohibited.


Moodle: All students in the class are automatically registered for this course on Moodle. When you log on to Moodle and access the site for this course, you will find all course materials, including this syllabus, readings, and guidelines for assignments.


Email: All email correspondence will be sent to your Rhodes email account. It is your responsibility to check this account regularly. Emails are not text messages. When writing me, I expect your emails to be professional.


Cell phones, Blackberries, ipods, and other such devices: Turn them off!


Honor Code: I believe in the College’s standards of academic honesty, and I enforce them vigorously and to the letter. Plagiarism and cheating are easy to detect; so are papers pulled off the internet. If I suspect that you have cheated or plagiarized another’s work, I will discuss this matter with you. If I am not satisfied, I will report your case to the Honor Council for due process. I always recommend failure for the course when I submit a file. The bottom line is this: do your own work. You are spending your time and money to be here and learn. Don’t waste either by plagiarizing or cheating.


A Word on Grading:

Papers will be evaluated on four main criteria: thesis, organization, evidence, and style. In general, a paper that does a very good job in each category is a ‘B’. A paper that almost does is a ‘B-’, and a paper that performs well in each category and goes beyond in one category is a ‘B+’. A paper that is satisfactory but weak in one or two categories is a ‘C’. A ‘D’ paper is weak in three or more categories, or omits one criterion completely. Papers without notes crediting sources and location quotations, paraphrases, and allusions will receive, at best, a grade of ‘D’. An ‘A’ range paper performs outstandingly well in each category, and achieves something extraordinary in two or more categories.


Remember that a grade does not reflect process (it does not measure whether you worked hard) and it certainly does not reflect a value judgment about you as a person. A grade constitutes an evaluation of the quality and analytical rigor of the thesis, organization, evidence, and style of a single piece of work.


I will be delighted to discuss your papers with you. Be advised however that grades, once assigned, are not subject to change. I also will not communicate grades over email or the telephone. The most important part of the grading process is not the grade, but the comments you will find on your papers when you pick them up.


I do not give “I” (incomplete) grades. Late work, except in documented cases of bereavement, major injury, or catastrophic illness, will suffer a substantial and progressive reduction in grade. Therefore, please plan ahead and do your work on time.



We [démineurs] still find live cannon balls from the Franco- Prussian War of 1870. There are lakes filled with toxic grenades from World War I. Every so often, a farmer in a tractor rolls over an anti-tank mine from World War II and poof, that’s it. These things are everywhere.

–Christian Gabardos

Département du Déminage



(subject to change)


  Week/Topic             Day    Date        Lectures, Discussions, Readings, and Papers                                        



Surveying the



Jan 12

Jan 14

Taking Aim

Enemies and Allies

Terrain Readings: Tucker and Russell, “Introduction,” and “The Impact of Warfare on the

Natural World”

Closmann, “Landscapes of Peace, Environments of War”



Militaries and



Jan 17

Jan 19

No class: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Disease and War

Microbes Fri Jan 21 Discussion: Revolutionary Pathogens
Readings: Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana, “Vigilance” and “Surrender”

John McNeill, Mosquito Empires, ch.6



Fighting over



Jan 24

Jan 26

The Organic Nature of War

Nourishing Armies

Familiar Territory Fri Jan 28 Discussion: A World Properly Put Together
Readings: Tucker and Russell, “Gettysburg and the Organic Nature of the American

Civil War”


Lisa M. Brady, “The Wilderness of War,” Environmental History (2005)

John Summers, “Gettysburg Regress,” The New Republic (2009)






Jan 31

Feb 2

The Ecology of Empire

Belgium’s Leopold and Congo’s Rubber

Landscapes Fri Feb 4 Discussion: Nature, Culture, and Human Nature
Readings: Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Closmann, “Wood for War”

Tucker and Russell, “War, the Military, and the Environment: Central

India” and “African Warfare in All Its Ferocity”



Mud, Blood, and



Feb 7

Feb 9

Oh! What a Lovely War

Energy Extraction

Trenches Fri Feb 11 Discussion: Fueling Conflict
Readings: Closmann, “Environments of Death”

Russell, chs.1-3

The 10th and 20th Forestry Engineers of World War I Browse: Western Front Photography –  Fields of Battle






Feb 14

Feb 16

Conservation and Reconstruction        FIRST PAPER DUE

Industrial Legacies

the Land Fri Feb 18 Discussion: Farms and Forests
Readings: Webster, ch.1

Tucker and Russell, “The Two World Wars and the Globalization of

Timber Cutting”

A. Joshua West, “Forests and National Security,” Environmental History





Total War,



Feb 21

Feb 23

The World at War…Again

The Wastes of War

Wretched Earth Fri Feb 25 Discussion: Nature on the Homefront
Readings: Russell, chs.6-7

Closmann, “Creating the Natural Fortress”

Tucker and Russell, “War—And Ecological Alternative to Peace?” and

“Landscapes in the Dark Valley”

Micah S. Muscolino, “Refugees, Land Reclamation, and Militarized

Landscapes in Wartime China: Huanglongshan, Shaanxi, 1937–

45,” The Journal of Asian Studies (2010)






Feb 28

Mar 2

Midterm Exam

The Manhattan Project

the Atom Fri Mar 4 Documentary: White Light/Black Rain



Cold War



Mar 7

Mar 9

Armaments and the Environment

Film: Arid Lands

Hot Waste Fri Mar 11 Discussion: Fears of Fallout
Readings: Webster, ch.3

Jacob Hamblin, “A Global Contamination Zone,” in Environmental

Histories of the Cold War

Valerie Kuletz, “Invisible Spaces, Violent Places: Cold War Nuclear and

Militarized Landscapes,” in Violent Environments

Browse: Nevada Test Site Oral History Project


March 14-18: Spring Break!


WEEK 10:




Mar 21

Mar 23

The Military-Industrial Complex

Communist Ecologies

Nature Fri Mar 25 Discussion: Cold War Climates
Readings: Shapiro, chs.1-2, 4

 Pre si dent  Eise nhower’ s  Farewel l  Speech,  1961

Paul Josephson, “War on Nature as Part of the Cold War” in

Environmental Histories of the Cold War


WEEK 11:




Mar 28

Mar 30

Jungles and Tunnels

Agent Orange

Landscapes Fri Apr1 Discussion: Chemical Morality
Readings: Webster, ch.4

Russell, chs.10-12

Alastair Hay, “Defoliants: the long-term health implications,” in The

Environmental Consequences of War

Tom Mangold and John Penycate, The Tunnels of Cu Chi, chs.1, 5, 6, 11


WEEK 12:

Burning Deserts

Mon   Apr 4      Persian Sands—Scarred Lands             SECOND PAPER DUE

Wed   Apr 6      Film: Lessons of Darkness

Fri      Apr 8      Discussion: For Want of Oil


Readings:   Webster, ch.5

Joel Kovel, “The Ecological Implications of the Iraq War,” Capitalism

Nature Socialism (2005)

Samira A.S. Omar, et al., “The Gulf War Impact on the Terrestrial

Environment of Kuwait: an Overview,” in The Environmental

Consequences of War



WEEK 13:

Necessities and



Apr 11

Apr 13

Insurgent Environments

The Highlife: Cocaine and Diamonds

Luxuries Fri Apr 15 Class Cancelled – with my apologies
Readings: Michael Watts, “Petro-Violence,” in Violent Environments

Thomas Homer-Dixon, “Environmental Scarcities and Violent Conflict,”

International Security (1994)

Michael Ross, “What Do We Know About Natural Resources and Civil

War,” Journal of Peace Research (2004)

James Fairhead, “International Dimensions of Conflict over Natural and

Environmental Resources,” in Violent Environments



WEEK 14:

War and Wildlife

Mon   Apr 18    Animals and Armed Conflict

Wed   Apr 20    Discussion: Gunpoint Conservation


Readings:   Thor Hansen, et al., “Warfare in Biodiversity Hotspots,” Conservation

Biology (2009)

Jeffrey McNeely, “War and biodiversity: an assessment of impacts,” in

The Environmental Consequences of War

Bernard Nietschmann, “Conservation by Conflict in Nicaragua,” Natural

History (November 1990), pp. 42-48

Charles Wood and Marianne Schmink, “The Military and the Environment in the Brazilian Amazon,” Journal of Political and Military Sociology (1993)



April 21-24: Easter Break!


WEEK 15:




Apr 25

Apr 27

Sustainable Military Ecologies

An Environmental Path to Peace?

Futures Readings: Gregory Reichberg and Henrik Syse, “Protecting the Natural Environment in Wartime: Ethical Considerations from the Just War Tradition,” Journal of Peace Research 37.4 (2000): 449-468

Silja Vöneky, “Peacetime Environmental Law as a Basis of State

Responsibility for Environmental Damage Caused by War,” in

The Environmental Consequences of War

Browse: Army Environmental Policy Institute


FINAL EXAM Wednesday, May4

8:30 AM