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You are here Undergraduate > Single Honors History > The Politics of Nature, Environmentalism in the Twentieth Century

HIU34526: The Politics of Nature: Environmentalism in the Twentieth Century

As citizens and consumers, we are confronted with environmental questions on a daily basis. The news tell us about global warming as a contested field of international and national politics and a major threat for human well-being and the planet as a whole; environmental policies attempt to regulate how we handle our waste; labels on our food inform us about whether artificial fertilizers or pesticides have been applied in their production. Historically, such widespread concern about the environment is a rather recent phenomenon.

  • Module Coordinator:
    • Dr Katja Bruish
  • Duration:
    • Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours:
    • 2 hours per week
  • Weighting:
    • 10 ECTS
  • Assessment:
    • Long essay (100%)

It emerged in response to the fundamental transformation of the non-human world through modern economic growth, urbanization and large-scale infrastructural projects and was shaped by the emergence of the global South after the end of European empires and the nuclear arms race of the Cold War.

We will explore the rise of the environment as an idea, as an arena of national and international governance, and as a sphere of civic activism. Which values underpinned concerns about the non-human world and how did they change over time? What was the role of scientific evidence in shaping political and public anxieties of environmental decline? How did environmentalist ideas enter the sphere of policy making? And why, after all, have more than three decades of climate politics been so ineffective? Studying a range of primary sources, such as newspapers, scientific writings, pamphlets and policy documents, we will take a transnational perspective on the politics of nature in the 20th century and discuss how history may help us understand why addressing environmental concerns has remained so difficult.