American Environmental History

American Environmental History

Led by: Prof. Catherine McNeur (Portland State University)
Course Number: AMHI 616
Semesters: Spring 2024



Image: John Montrésor, A Plan of the City of New-York & Its Environs..., London, 1775 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC04315)

Montrésor, John (1736-1799) A Plan of the City of New York & its environs

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the history of human interactions with the environment in the United States with a special focus on the history of political, social, cultural, and economic forces that have structured relationships with nature. Organized chronologically, the course covers topics that range from water and waste to food and fuel. We will address large questions about the underpinnings of Americans’ relationships with their environment by looking at a variety of case studies. By the end of the course, you will have a stronger understanding of not only how humans have dealt with environmental issues in the past but also the historical background for modern environmental issues.

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Lecture Preview

Lecture 1: “(Mis)reading Indigenous Landscapes”

About the Scholar

Catherine McNeur, Associate Professor of History, Portland State University

Catherine McNeur is the award-winning author of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City (2014). Her book Mischievous Creatures: The Forgotten Sisters Who Transformed Early American Science (2023) uncovers the lives of Margaretta Hare Morris and Elizabeth Carrington Morris, two unsung pioneers whose discoveries helped fuel the growth and professionalization of science in antebellum America. McNeur’s expertise is nineteenth-century American environmental history, but she teaches broadly in public history, the history of food, and urban history as well as United States history.

The views expressed in the course descriptions and lectures are those of the lead scholars.