[skip to content]

Department of History

History of Environment and Globalisation in Asia and Africa

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

The term Environment (or Environmental History) is being conceptualised as the relationship between landscape (and seascape), culture and society in the past from the early modern to the modern period. This would largely exclude studies of material environmental history from a natural science perspective (although the availability of such courses in other institutions in London University which could be taken relating to the material/physical environment will be flagged to students). The focus would, therefore, be on cultural and intellectual histories of the environment, the cultural and historical shaping and meanings of land/seascapes, and political histories of the environment, to include resource extraction and management, security and conflict, regulation and control. This will be related through the concept of Globalization to the economic, technological, socio cultural and political flows of ideas that have produced forces of global integration. Weeks 11 and 12 will be devoted to two workshops, which will replace regular teaching to run for a full morning (or extended to a full day if numbers of students reach the maximum). Week 11 will be a workshop in which students will make presentations, followed by group discussion, on a piece of research they are currently developing for submission as a piece of written work. This will provide students with a greater opportunity to explore the processual aspects of developing research questions. In week 12, a workshop will be held to consider critically the role that historical research has in the policy making process. This will draw on Dr Sadan’s training in Policy and Academic Research conducted with the British Academy and the National School of Government, and may include a visit to a policy making organisation/institution and/or guest speakers from such bodies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate …

  • understanding of how the sub-discipline of Environmental History emerged and has evolved over time;
  • that he/she is able to critically assess the notion of ‘Environmental History’ as an explanatory framework, and to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of environmental models of human societies and their transformations in Asia and Africa;
  • that he/she is able to critically assess the notion of ‘Globalization’ as an explanatory framework, and to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of this term to explain political, economic and socio-cultural transformations in Asia and Africa;
  • understanding of the historical debates concerning globalisation and environmental history as they impact on the historical study of Asia and Africa;
  • understanding of the intersections between environmental history and globalisation, and the ability to relate these to themes of social, political, cultural and economic transformation in Asia and Africa from the early modern period onwards;
  • understanding of the key issues in contemporary discourse on environmental change and its impact on human societies in Asia and Africa, and the ability to evaluate and contextualise these historically;
  • the ability to evaluate primary and secondary source material and engage in historical debate as a result;
  • awareness of relevant inter-disciplinary models to discuss the issues raised by the course and be able to relate those to historical contexts;
  • understanding of the ways in which historical studies on environmental change and globalisation may relate to policy issues;
  • the ability to formulate, address and critically assess historical and historiographical questions  arising from a corpus of literature;
  • understanding of the process of research activity and the ways in which participation in an academic community contributes to the extension of individual learning and learning by acquisition;
  • understanding of some of the methods, practices and issues in environmental and globalisation history;
  • that he/she has developed a range of skills relevant to focused discussion, analysis, writing, and presentation of research results.


12 weeks, with two hours of seminars per week.

Scope and syllabus

A broad thematic structure for the module would be as follows :

  1. Approaches to Environmental History: the emergence of a field and its multi-disciplinary orientations
  2. Imagining the Shape of the World: From early cartography to Google Earth
  3. Landscapes and Seascapes: Historiographical Approaches to Environment
  4. Borderlands
  5. Environment and conflict
  6. The politics of resource control and extraction
  7. Water, famine and security
  8. Urbanisation
  9. Routes, flows and the friction of distance
  10. Livelihood security at times of global crisis
  11. Workshop with student presentations
  12. Workshop on understanding policy making and the role of historical research

Method of assessment

2 x Essays (80%), Presentation (10%) and Participatory Learning (10%)