• Offered by School of History
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject History
  • Areas of interest Environmental Studies, History
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Jessica Urwin
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

How can history help us understand the environmental problems we face today? What has shaped the relationships between people and environments in the past? This unit offers an introduction to global environmental history on a planetary scale, focusing on the period since 1945 known as “The Great Acceleration”.

In this course, we examine the profound transformation of the relationship between humans and the environment that has unfolded exponentially since 1945. Through a series of case studies and stories we will examine how the human footprint has grown, and its socioeconomic, political, and ecological impacts. This unit is organised both chronologically and thematically, allowing students to explore agricultural, industrial and technological revolutions; energy and technology; development and decolonisation; disease; capitalism; urbanisation; conservation and environmentalism; and anthropogenic climate change.

This unit offers an historical perspective on our modern environmental condition through an examination of the changing interactions between people and our planet. It explores the influences on human dealings with the natural world, the ways that humans have changed the natural world, and how humans have responded to environmental change.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the field of global environmental history, including key themes and debates;
  2. demonstrate an ability to formulate sound arguments about how human actions have been shaped by their historical contexts (social, political, economic, cultural and environmental);
  3. demonstrate an understanding of the processes leading to environmental change in a range of places since 1945;
  4. demonstrate an awareness of the ways in which historically determined ideas about the environment inform current environmental policies and debates; and
  5. develop and demonstrate oral and written skills in constructing evidence-based arguments using a variety of primary and secondary sources.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Primary source museum report (1000 words) (20) [LO 2,3]
  2. Research essay (2000 words) (40) [LO 1,2]
  3. Tutorial participation including source presentation (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  4. Final open-book examination ( 2 hours) (30) [LO 4,5]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of tutorial and tutorial-like activities; and

b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts

J.R. McNeill & Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945, Harvard University Press, 2014. [Online-ANU]

Preliminary Reading

·     Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Fawcett, 1962. [ANU]

·     Graeme Davison, Car Wars: how the car won our hearts and conquered our cities, Allen & Unwin, 2004. [ANU]

·     Ramachandra Guha and Joan Martinez Alier (eds), Varieties of Environmentalism: essays north and south, Earthscan, 1997. [ANU]

·     Neil M. Maher, Apollo in the Age of Aquarius, Harvard University Press, 2019.

·     J.R. McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: an environmental history of the twentieth-century world, Norton, 2000. [ANU]

·     Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, 2011. [ANU]

·     Haripriya Rangan, Of Myths and Movements: Rewriting Chipko into Himalayan history, Verso, 2000.

·     Libby Robin, Paul Warde and Sverker Soerlin (eds), Future of Nature, Yale University Press, 2013. [ANU]

·     Vasant Saberwal and Mahesh Rangarajan (eds), Battles over Nature: Science and the Politics of Conservation, Permanent Black, 2003. [ANU]

·     Perrin Selcer, The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment: How the United Nations Built Spaceship Earth, Columbia University Press, 2018. [ANU]


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $4980
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
7089 25 Jul 2022 01 Aug 2022 31 Aug 2022 28 Oct 2022 In Person View

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