History of Water and Environment

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    History of Water and Environment

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Environmental Studies, History

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    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.

    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.

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

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

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