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Disease, climate and ecology: readings in environmental history


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


Over the past decades, in tandem with the rise of colonial history as discipline, environmental history has developed from a new idea to a flourishing discipline. Partly as a result of our growing concern about our current impact on the planet, and, correspondingly, our growing scientific understanding of the processes that govern the natural world, historians have increasingly brought disease, climate change, natural disasters and ecology firmly into the realm of history. In this literature seminar, we will discuss some of the main works in this field, from the foundational classics of the 1970s and 1980s, to more recent titles. We will explore the methods of the discipline as they have taken shape, trends in research, and will stop to wonder whether we can consider environmental history a coherent historic discipline at all.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  2. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
  3. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  4. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  5. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940).
  2. (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  1. Has acquired an overview of the development of environmental history as a discipline
  2. Has acquired knowledge about the main themes and questions within this field
  3. Has developed understanding of the possibilities and limits of environmental history as a method


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, the student is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Essay
    Measured learning objectives: 1-3, 6, 8-10

  • Assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4, 6, 8-10

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 1-3, 6, 8-10

  • Active participation in class discussions
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4


  • Essay: 50%

  • Weekly assignments: 40%

  • Presentation and class participation: 10%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written essay must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading List

The course readings will be published through Brightspace prior to the start of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.