Inviting Doomsday: US Environmental - HIST7950

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Condemned by the international community for refusing to sign the Kyoto Accords, rendered powerless by electricity blackouts, and stricken by the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the United States of America is today embroiled in a narrative of environmental controversy and catastrophe. This module explores to what extent the USA has been ‘inviting doomsday’ throughout the modern (twentieth-century) period. Commencing with an introductory session on writing and researching American environmental history, the module is then split into four sections: Science and Recreation, Doomsday Scenarios, Environmental Protest, and Consuming Nature. Over the twelve weeks we will consider a range of environmental issues that include wildlife management in national parks, pesticide spraying on prairie farms, nuclear testing in Nevada, and Mickey Mouse rides in Disneyland. By the end of the module, we will have constructed a comprehensive map of the United States based around themes of ecological transformation, assimilation and decay.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Essay 1 3000 words 20%
Essay 2 3000 words 20%
Oral contribution 10%
Examination 2 hours 50%
Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Have acquired an understanding of how environmental history functions, its problems and its advantages, and how it differs from other types of history (social, economic etc.) and other disciplines (geography, sociology etc.)..
2 Have produced (and reflected on) written assignments and oral arguments situated within the discourse of environmental history by navigating a variety of apposite sources including eco-novels, ecological reports, and geography texts (alongside traditional histories).
3 Have critically analysed the relationship between US citizens and their surroundings over the course of the twentieth century and be able to relate this past to present dilemmas in American environmental policy.
4 Have discussed how environmental issues relate to other important themes such as gender, nationalism and racism.
5 Have recognized problematic concepts and labels such as 'wilderness,' 'nature' and 'ecology' in the canon of environmental history.
6 Have improved their ability to analyse, criticise and assess historical arguments.
7 Have analysed visual sources including maps, films, and documentaries.
8 Have improved their ability to plan and write an original history essay and to organise it around a coherent argument.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Participate in discussion, make their own contributions to discussion and listen to and respect the contributions of others through the two-hour seminar format.
2 Engage in group work, cooperating on set tasks toward answering historical questions (such as why was Rachel Carson's Silent Spring controversial), presenting individual and group responses.
3 Communicate their own ideas clearly and coherently, orally and in writing, assisted by peer and teacher feedback.
4 Reflect on their own learning, plan their use of time, and identify appropriate directions for further study, encouraged by the teacher.
5 Produce word-processed assignments that are of a high standard in terms of presentation and professionalism.
6 Effectively research using the Internet; recognizing the variety of sites on environmental issues located on the world wide web and their associated problems/benefits.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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