History of Water and Environment


Course Objective

Learning to design and conduct historical research independently; to
apply concepts and theories in a research paper; to take a stand in a
historical debate.

Course Content

In this course we focus on the complex historical relationship between
humans and the environment. It is connected to large global processes
like population growth, industrialization, technological progress, the
rise of the nation state, urbanization, and environmental change. We
read some classical studies from environmental history on topics like
decrease of forests, air pollution and climate change, concepts of
nature,and the environmental movement. A major topic is humans
relationship with water. Humans contributed to large changes in the
watery environment including creating plastic soup and other types of
pollution, desertification, damming of surface water, and large-scale
withdrawal of groundwater. How does this affect human societies and the
environment? How does tourism lead to creating human-made oases in the
USA and the Middle East? How does draining aquivers for making such
oases affect longterm chance for agriculture and for surviving chances
of indigenous peoples? Water history has many aspects. Water is an
important resource as for drinking water and for production processes
(ground water, rain water) and an important means of transport (canals,
rivers, seas). But water can also be a safety threat. How did the
Netherlands protect itself against high sea and river waters? How did
cities protect the surface water that was the source of their drinking
water? Since water is so essential for life, in many cultures it has
acquired special meanings (baptism) and controlling water often is an
expression of political power.
We concentrate on the period 1800-2000, when the global population
underwent unprecedented growth, cities exploded worldwide and
environmental change occurred at an ever higher speed, thanks to the
change to fossil fuels. We compare developments in some global regions,
in particular Europe (Netherlands, England and Germany), USA and Asia
(Indonesia, India and the Middle East).
The course content is enriched by and connected to on-going research
projects. As a special source we will explore newspaper databases.

Teaching Methods

Seminar of 2 sessions of 2 hours per week in April and May. Final
presentations and submission research paper in June.

Method of Assessment

Literature report (comparative) (20%), Newspaper report (20%), Oral
presentation (10%), Research paper (50%).


Literatur is provided by the lecturer in CANVAS.

Target Audience

BA students.

General Information

Course Code L_GEBAGES212
Credits 6 EC
Period P5+6
Course Level 200
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator prof. dr. P.J.E.M. van Dam
Teaching Staff prof. dr. P.J.E.M. van Dam

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

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