This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at

Introduction to Environmental History

As taught in: Spring 2004

Photo of a landscape with a lake in the foreground.

The English Lake District. (Image courtesy of Prof. Harriet Ritvo.)


Prof. Harriet Ritvo

MIT Course Number:




Course Highlights

The readings section of the course includes a number of downloadable handouts and lists of terms. In addition, all assignments and sample student submissions are available. This course also features archived syllabi from various semesters.

Course Description

This seminar provides a historical overview of the interactions between people and their environments. Focusing primarily on the experience of Europeans in the period after Columbus, the subject explores the influence of nature (climate, topography, plants, animals, and microorganisms) on human history and the reciprocal influence of people on nature. Topics include the biological consequences of the European encounter with the Americas, the environmental impact of technology, and the roots of the current environmental crisis.