Skip to main content

Unit information: Environmental Imperialism (Level I Lecture Response Unit) in 2014/15

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Environmental Imperialism (Level I Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HIST20048
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Andy Flack
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit examines the ways in which the British interacted with the diverse and increasingly fragile environments of their Empire. Industrialisation and the expanding global reach of Europeans in the modern world intensified the gathering of the Imperial harvest. Global environments, from rainforests to rivers and from oceans to orchards changed in significant ways through the rise of European imperialisms, while animal life found an ever-expanding array of places to occupy in the British imagination.

Themes to be discussed may include: the depletion of global environments to slake commercial and scientific thirst; the cultural imagery of the Empire; changing understandings of the natural world in light of emerging technologies such as film and the aeroplane; the rise of conservation movements in the post-colonial world; and shifting ideas about what it meant to be human through encounters with the indigenous peoples of the British Empire.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: (1) a broad understanding of the ways in which the British Empire interacted with its colonial environments; (2) the ability to analyse and generalise about how and why Britain's attitudes towards the environments of its colonies changed over time; (3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments; (4) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 8 (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

Beinart, William and Lottie Hughes, Environment and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Cartmill, Matt, A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature through History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993)

Crosby, Alfred, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe 900-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Drayton, Richard, Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000)

Grove Richard H, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Landes, Joan B., Paula Young Lee and Paul Youngquist (eds.), Gorgeous Beasts: Animal Bodies in Historical Perspective (University Park, Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012)

Ritvo, Harriet, The Animal Estate: The English and other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989)