Inviting Doomsday: US Environmental Problems in the Twentieth Century - HIST7960

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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

Weekly one-hour lectures and two-hour seminars.

Indicative reading

CARSON, R - 'Silent Spring' (1962)
PRICE, J - 'Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America' (1999)
ROTHMAN, H - 'The Greening of a Nation' (1998)
STEINBURG, T - 'Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History' (2002)
WASKO, J - 'Understanding Disney' (2001)
NASH, R - 'American Environmentalism@ Readings in Conservation History (1989)
WILLS, J - 'US Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday' (Edinburgh University Press, 2012)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  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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