UCL Institute of the Americas


AMER0090 | Conquering America: North American Environments, 1600-present

***Not available in 2023/24***

Tutor: Professor Gareth Davies

Credits: 30 | Year 3 | Runs in both terms

North American environmental responses since 1600 have been conditioned by an ongoing tension between two very different sensibilities. First is the Judeo-Christian idea that it is the right of humankind to master and exploit the environment (to “subdue and replenish the earth,”) an attitude that has often had particular force in ‘settler’ societies. But it has always coexisted with a rival sensibility based on reverence for nature—for awe at the natural bounty and grandeur of the North American environment, and a commitment to forming a sustainable relationship with the natural world. This module ranges broadly over colonial and subsequent history, from the early years of European settlement to the ‘anthropocene’ present, investigating the geographic expansion and increasingly dramatic impacts of Euro-American settlement, together with a strengthening conservationist and environmentalist sensibility. We will consult a diverse assortment of primary sources, including speeches, paintings, fictional writing, government documents and songs, and students will have the opportunity to deploy such sources (together with one of the richest literatures in North American historiography) in writing a dissertation. The module will be assessed by an extended coursework essay and a shorter primary document evaluation.  Additionally, it is expected that most students on the module will also write a 10,000-word dissertation linked to its subject matter, which will be undertaken as part of a stand-alone dissertation module for a further 30 credits.


3500-word essay (weighting: 70.00)

1500-word primary source analysis (weighting: 30.00)