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Study information

Environment and Industry, 1750-1950: Global Perspectives

Module titleEnvironment and Industry, 1750-1950: Global Perspectives
Module codeHIH1614
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Semih Celik (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This course examines the ecological consequences of the early phases of industrialization (1750-1950) from a global perspective. Instead of focusing on industrial goods manufactured in different sectors, the course traces the processes of extraction and exploitation of what the environmental historian J. R. McNeill labels as ‘ingredients’ of industrialization. Focusing on five natural substances crucial for the early phases of industrialization, the course will scrutinize the interconnected processes of natural resource extraction required for industrialization across the world and explore their effects on the environment. This course will examine textual (official correspondence, scientific material, and literary works) and visual sources (paintings, photographs, and maps) from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Among others, the course will focus on the following questions: what were the ecological consequences of the first phases of industrialization; which methods were used to extract natural resources for the needs of industrialization; how were extraction processes reacted by local communities?

Prior knowledge of the subject matter is not required. Upon completion, you will have equipped yourself with the ability to critically assess the sources on the environmental aspects of industrialization and will be able to engage with historiographical and contemporary debates.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • Prime you with a basic knowledge of industrial revolutions in global perspective. 
  • Familiarise you with the various sources used by historians to study environmental history.
  • Introduce you to numerous textual and visual sources from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • Enable you to disentangle layers of knowledge embedded in various sources.
  • Guide you through ongoing debates within the historical research community and allow you to engage with theoretical approaches to studying the environmental history.
  • Equip you with the necessary analytical skills and provide you with a firm foundation for future research in any aspect of history.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand and assess the effects of nineteenth-century industrialization on environments across the world.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to industrialization across space.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc., and compare the validity of different types of source.
  • 4. Present historical arguments and answer questions orally

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 6. Digest, select, and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 7. Write to a tight word-limit

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The ecological consequences of industrialization across the world.
  • The role of scientific and indigenous knowledge in industrialization.
  • Colonial and non-colonial contexts of natural resource extraction.
  • Resistance to overexploitation of natural resources.
  • Interconnectedness between rural and urban landscapes and waterscapes.
  • Politics of natural resource management and conservation.
  • Flora and fauna change.
  • Air pollution and water contamination.
  • Animal destruction.
  • Environmentalism

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching2Workshop
Scheduled learning and teaching18Seminars (9 x 2 hour)
Guided independent study130Reading and preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group Presentation5 minutes per individual student1-6Oral
Source commentary850 words1-7Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source Commentary One33850 words1-3, 5-7Written
Source Commentary Two33850 words1-3, 5-7Written
Source Commentary Three34850 words1-3, 5-7Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Source Commentary 1 (850 words)Source Commentary (850 words)1-3, 5-7Referral/Deferral period
Source Commentary 2 (850 words)Source Commentary (850 words)1-3, 5-7Referral/Deferral period
Source Commentary 3 (850 words)Source Commentary (850 words)1-3, 5-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative Reading

  • Kenneth Pomeranz. 2016. “Political Economy and Ecology on the Eve of Industrialization: Europe, China, and the Global Conjuncture.” In The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers, eds. Ross E. Dunn, Laura J. Mitchell and Kerry Ward. University of California Press, pp. 366-383.
  • Peter N. Stearns. 2021. The Industrial Revolution in World History. Fifth Edition. Routledge, pp. 19-187.


  • Stefania Barca. 2010. Enclosing Water: Nature and Political Economy in a Mediterranean Valley, 1796-1916. The White Horse Press, pp. 1-12 and 117-141.
  • David Blackbourn. 2006. The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany. W.W. Norton & Company, pp. 189-251.


  • Sabine Barles and Laurence Lestel. 2007. “The Nitrogen Question: Urbanization, Industrialization, and River Quality in Paris, 1830–1939.” Journal of Urban History, 33 (5): 794-812.
  • Brett Clark and John Bellamy Foster. 2009. “Ecological Imperialism and the Global Metabolic Rift: Unequal Exchange and the Guano/Nitrates Trade.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 50 (3-4): 311-334.

Whale Oil:

  • Stefan Andreasson and Timothy J. Ruback. 2021. “Our oil would burn bright til morning:” Geopolitics, resource securitization, and Anglo-American competition for whale oil, 1783–1818.” Energy Research and Social Science, 76: 1-10.
  • Jakobina Arch. 2015. “Whale Oil Pesticide: Natural History, Animal Resources, and Agriculture in Early Modern Japan.” In New Perspectives on the History of Life Sciences and Agriculture, eds. Denise Phillips and Sharon Kingsland. Springer, 93-112.

Bison Hide:

  • Andrew C. Isenberg. 2000. The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920. Cambridge University Press, pp. 123-163.
  • Danielle Tascherau Mamers. 2019. “Human-Bison Relations as Sites of Settler Colonial Violence and Decolonial Resurgence.” Humanimalia: A Journal of Human-Animal Interface Studies, special issue on Decolonizing Animal Studies, 10 (2): 10-41.

Coal/Fossil Fuels:

  • On Barak. 2020. Powering Empire: How Coal Made the Middle East and Sparked Global Carbonization. University of California Press, pp. 117-157.
  • Sashi Sivramkrishna. 2009. “Production Cycles and Decline in Traditional Iron Smelting in the Maidan , Southern India, c. 1750-1950: An Environmental History Perspective.” Environment and History, 15 (2): 163-197.

Key words search

Industrial Revolutions, Environmental History, Animal History, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Latin America.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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