All a twitter …

The talk arising out of ASEH 2012 about digital history and “what is a digital historian” led me to again consider the utility of Twitter as a teaching and research tool.

At previous NiCHE events and conferences, I’ve been one of the those tweeting the proceedings and happenings, and I’ll admit I was beginning to wonder somewhat about the utility (especially when 5 of us were tweeting and 1 person – usually Colin Tyner – was about the only one who seemed to be following). But the participation rates on Twitter during ASEH 2012 seemed higher; the question is whether it is anything more than a novelty that will wear off?

The obvious upside is that Twitter can lead to some connection with those not at the conference, or at a different paper or panel. I wasn’t able to attend the Madison conference, but I’ll admit that through Twitter, I did feel a little connected. On the downside, does tweeting key parts of a paper lead to disengaging with other parts (i.e. are we not paying attention when we compose our tweets?). And there is the danger of it being too commodified?

I think tweeting has become more acceptable – at least at certain conferences and settings, or maybe just within certain fields that have a stronger connection to digital humanities and methods – and there is more acceptance of those using smart phones, iPads, and laptops to click-clack through a talk. Is that good or bad? I’ll admit that tweeting can be a convenient cover for doing other things on an electronic device (e.g. using email, googling that thing the presenter just mentioned, etc.).

I had considered using Twitter for courses I’ve taught this past year and this upcoming semester. I recently had a conversation (over Twitter no less – so maybe calling it a “conversation” would an exaggeration; lets say exchange) with a few other historians: Ian Milligan, who recently used Twitter in a third-year lecture course, Shannon Stunden Bower, who is considering it for an upcoming course, and Wilko von Hardenberg, who is employing it in a digital history course later this summer.

Based on this “exchange” it appears that the main benefit of Twitter as a pedagogical tool may be that it facilitates engagement. But since the course I’m teaching in the upcoming semester is a seminar, rather than lecture, course, I’m not sure how Twitter would be beneficial, since a seminar should inherently facilitate engagement anyway. Perhaps if there is a related website and online discussion board, which I’m mulling over, then Twitter as an ancillary could be fun and useful in a very minor way.

Another potential classroom side-benefit I could see, albeit a limited one, is that using Twitter might make you appear “with it” to the students. But that has its pitfalls too – as Grampa Simpson puts it: “I used to be with IT. But then they changed what IT was. Now what I’m with isn’t IT, and what’s IT seems scary and weird. It’ll happen to YOU.”

Further thoughts on a spring/summer enviro history seminar …

Below is a rough draft of the syllabus I referred to in the previous blog post. The course doesn’t start until May, and I’m posting this in order to solicit feedback and comments. I’m looking for comments on specific content (e.g. thoughts on class themes, and sources I did or didn’t include), general comments on course organization (e.g. readings and assignments), and anything else.

I like the Exploring Ottawa option – which I’ve “borrowed” from other historians – and am open to considering other alternative forms of assignments, particularly those utilizing online/digital technology.

Commentators may want to review my previous post so that they are aware of the specific parameters and limitations of this course (e.g. probably can’t expect heavy readings for Wednesday classes). Feel free to comment here or contact me directly: daniel_macfarlane(at)

I don’t have anything scheduled yet for the last two classes in August. I’m thinking maybe I’ll have students present their terms papers in those two classes, but I also like leaving it as buffer space to accommodate changes or missed classes earlier in the term (we are expecting our second child in the middle of June, so that may involve a missed class!).

fyi, I choose the Duke reader over Methods and Meaning in Canadian History for largely pragmatic reasons: I don’t own a copy of the latter (I thought I had requested a review copy a long time ago, but if I did, it never arrived; I requested another copy last week).

Canada: Ideas & Culture – Canadian Environmental History
Spring/Summer 2012
Dr. Daniel Macfarlane

Class Location:
Class Hours: Mondays & Wednesday, 6:05-8:55pm
Office Location: 446 Paterson Hall
Office Hours: 5:30-6:00pm; and by appointment
Contact Information:

This seminar focuses on Canadian environmental history, but consideration will also be given to the wider transnational environmental history of North America. The goal of this course is to understand the historical interactions and relationships between the various Canadian peoples and governments and the natural environment.
We will consider how environmental factors, such as climate, topography, plants, and animals have enabled, constrained, and altered the path of human societies. How and why have humans affected and altered their natural environment? How have the peoples who have populated Canada conceived of and used the natural world? How have these conceptions and uses changed over time? How instrumental have geography and natural resources been in the historical development of the Canadian state? Are there important regional distinctions? How are current environmental issues linked to past developments?
The first few seminars will explore First Nations, the fur trade, and European explorers and settlers. We will examine the accelerating exploitation of natural resources in the 19th century, and then focus on the 20th century for the remainder of the course. This course encompasses topics from fish, fur, and forests to wildlife, agriculture, and parks. Given the abundance and importance of water in Canada, and the range of canals and hydro-electric developments around Ottawa, the theme of water in Canadian history will receive special attention.


• class participation and presentations (30%)
• book review and presentation (20%) – due on relevant date
• historiography paper or Exploring Ottawa assignment (20%) – July 18
• research paper (30%) – August 15
-includes a research paper proposal – due July 25

•Class Participation: students need to do the readings and participate in class discussions.
•Book Review: students must submit an approximately 5-page review of a book. Students must choose from the list of books provided. Furthermore, students must provide a 15-30 minute overview and present the reviewed book to the class on the relevant date.
•Historiography Paper: You will survey the literature on a theme in environmental history, including Canadian contributions to the field. You should identify main themes, points in dispute, strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the scholarly analysis of the topic. Each paper should be approximately 4000-5000 words (16-20 pages) in length.
•Exploring Ottawa Assignment: You will complete an environmental history study of some aspect of the Ottawa environment. This paper topic will be selected in conjunction with the instruction, and the paper will be 4000-5000 words (16-20 pages). The history must have a focus and argument, so you should connect your specific topic to larger developments and historical arguments.
•Research paper proposal: a 1-2 page statement of tentative thesis, methodology, sources, etc. and a separate tentative annotated bibliography outlining primary and secondary sources. You will explain your choice of research topic, describe the sources you will utilize and why you have chosen them, and outline the related historiography.
•Research paper: an approximately 25-page paper which will require the use of suitable primary and secondary sources, historiographical research, etc. You are free to choose your topic, but the paper topic must be cleared with the instructor. Students cannot use a paper from another class.
The paper should be substantially based on primary sources, give clear evidence of personal thought, and be clearly written. It should be based heavily on primary sources. Your paper should demonstrate that you have mastered the relevant secondary sources and historiography on the subject. You need to demonstrate how your argument fits into this historiography. You will need to use journal articles as well as monographs. The paper should have a clear thesis and all parts of the paper should contribute to this thesis. The paper should be well organized, so that the reader can easily follow your argument.
Your paper must also follow established standards of word usage, grammar, and format. References must be properly footnoted. In addition to the notes, the paper must include a bibliography listing all sources. The bibliography should be divided into primary and secondary sources.

*Late work will be penalized at a rate of 5% per day. You must submit all assignments to get a grade for the course – failure to complete all components will result in an incomplete mark. The format for all formal written assignments will be 12 pt Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 1 inch margins.


-Graeme Wynn, Canada and Arctic North America: An Environmental History (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007). (available as an e-book in Carleton library).
-David Freeland Duke, ed., Canadian Environmental History: Essential Readings (Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 2006).

The instructor reserves the right to make changes and substitutions in the syllabus during the course of the semester, but in such cases will provide reasonable prior notification (e.g. WebCT).

May 9 – Introduction

May 11 – What is Environmental History?
Group Readings:
-Duke: Donald Worster, “Doing Environmental History,” William Cronon, “The Uses of Environmental History,” Carolyn Merchant, “Eve: Nature and Narrative,” Douglas R. Weiner, “A Death-Defying Attempt to Articulate a Coherent Definition of Environmental History.”
-“What is Environmental History,” ( environmental_history.html)
-J.R. McNeill. “The State of the Field of Environmental History.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 35 (2010): 345-74.

May 16 – Contact and First Nations
Group Readings:
-Duke: William M. Denevan, “The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492,” Shepard Krech, “Fire,” Alfred Crosby, “Ecological Imperialism: The Overseas Migration of Western European as a Biological Phenomenon.”
-Wynn, Chapter 4

May 18 – Fur Trade; Laurentian, metropolitan, staples theses
Group Readings:
-Wynne, chapters 4-7
-Duke: Ramsay Cook, “Making a Garden out of a Wildnerness,” Paul Hackett, “Averting Disaster: the Hudson’s Bay Company and Smallpox in Western Canada during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.”
-Carolyn Podruchny. “Writing, Ritual, and Folklore: Imagining the Cultural Geography of Voyageurs,” in Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental History, Alan MacEachern and William Turkel, eds. (Toronto: Thompson-Nelson, 2008), 55-74.
-W.L. Morton, “Clio in Canada: the Interpretation of Canadian History,” (University of Toronto Quarterly, 1946)

-Hans Carlson, Home is the Hunter: The James Bay Cree and their Land (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008).
-Harold A. Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1956).

May 21 – Forestry/Lumber
Group Readings:
-Duke: R. Peter Gillis, “Rivers of Sawdust: The Battle Over Industrial Pollution in Canada, 1865-1903.”
-Wynn, chapters 9; 11; 16; 24
-Peter Gillis, ‘The Ontario Lumber Barons and the Conservation Movement 1880-1914,’ JCS, 9, Feb.1974, 14-30
-B. Hodgins, J. Bernidickson, P. Gillis, ‘The Ontario and Quebec Experiments in Forest Reserves, 1883-1930,’ Journal of Forest History, 26, 1 (Jan.1982), 20-33.
-Stéphane Castonguay and Diane Saint-Laurent, “Reconstructing Reforestation: Changing Land-Use Patterns Along the Saint-François River in the Eastern Townships,” in MacEachern and Turkel, Method & Meaning in Canadian Environmental History, 273-292.

-Graeme Wynn, Timber Colony: A Historical Geography of Early Nineteenth Century New Brunswick (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981).
-Stephen Pyne, Awful Splendour: A Fire History of Canada (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008).

May 23 – No class (university closed)

May 28 – No class

May 30 – Fish & Seals
Group Readings:
-Wynn, Chapters 10; 17; 25
-Sean Cadigan, “The Moral Economy of the Commons: Ecology and Equity
in the Newfoundland Cod Fishery, 1825-1855,” Labour/le travail 43 (1999): 9-42.
-Joseph Taylor, “The Historical Roots of Canadian-American Salmon Wars,” in Parallel Destinies: Canadians, Americans, and the Western Border, ed. John Findlay and Ken Coates (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 155-80. (Carleton library: catalogue and e-book)
– Lissa Wadewitz, “The Scales of Salmon: Diplomacy and Conservation in the Western Canada-U.S. Borderlands” in Andrew R. Graybill, Benjamin Heber Johnson, Bridging National Borders: Transnational and Comparative Histories (Duke University Press, 2010).

-Briton Cooper Busch, The War Against Seals: A History of the North American Seal Fishery (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 1985).
-Joseph Taylor, Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fishery Crisis (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999).
-Margaret Beattie Bogue, Fishing the Great Lakes: An Environmental History, 1783-1933 (Madison, WS: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000).
-Dean Bavington, Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010).

June 4 – Water & Canals up to IJC
Group Readings:
-Pauline Desjardins, “Navigation and Waterpower: Adaptation and Technology on Canadian Canals,” Industrial Archaeology, Volume 29, Number 1, 2003.
-Stéphane Castonguay, “The Production of Flood as Natural Catastrophe: Extreme Events and the Construction of Vulnerability in the Drainage Basin of the St. Francis River (Quebec), Mid-Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Century,” Environmental History (2007) 12(4): 820-844

-Robert Spencer, John Kirton, Kim Richard Nossal, eds., The International Joint Commission Seventy Years On (Toronto: University of Toronto Centre for International Studies, 1981).
-John N. Jackson, The Welland Canals and their Communities: Engineering, Industrial, and Urban Transformation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).
-James T. Angus, A Respectable Ditch: A History of the Trent-Severn Waterway, 1833-1920 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998).
-Robert Legget, Rideau Waterway (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986).
-Robert Passfield’s book manuscript on Rideau Canal?

June 6 – Field Trip: Rideau Canal
-Carleton History Dept app and website on Rideau Canal:

June 11 – Wilderness, Conservation, Preservation
Group readings:
-Duke: Lorne Hammond, “Marketing Wildlife: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Pacific Northwest, 1821-1903.”
-Sean Kheraj, “Restoring Nature: Ecology, Memory, and the Storm History of Vancouver’s Stanley Park” Canadian Historical Review 88 (4) 2007: 577-612-
-Claire Campbell, “Governing a Kingdom: Parks Canada, 1911-2011,” in A Century of Parks Canada, 1911-2011 (Calgary: NiCHE-University of Calgary Press, 2011) (available for download here:
-Peter Gillis & Thomas Roach, ‘The American Influence on Conservation in Canada 1899-1911,’ Journal of Forest History, 30, 4, Oct.1986

-Janet Foster, Working for Wildlife: The Beginning of Preservation in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998).
-Marilyn Dubasek, Wilderness Preservation: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Canada and the United States (Taylor & Francis,1991).
-Alan MacEachern, Natural Selection: National Parks in Atlantic Canada, 1935-1970 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2001).
-Tina Loo, States of Nature: Conserving Canada’s Wildlife in the Twentieth Century (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007).
-John Sandlos, Hunters at the Margin: Native Peoples and Wildlife Conservation in the Northwest Territories (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007)
-Kurkpatrick Dorsey, The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998).

June 13: Landscape in eastern Canada
Group Readings:
-Duke: Colin Coates, “Like ‘the Thames towards Putney’: The Appropriation of Landscape in Lower Canada.”
-Wynn, chapters 8-9; 12; 15

-Neil Forkey, Shaping the Upper Canadian Frontier: Environment, Society, and Culture in the Trent Valley (University of Calgary Press, 2003).
-Colin Coates, The Metamorphoses of Landscape and Community in Early Quebec (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000), (available through Carleton library as an e-book)
-Claire Campbell, Shaped by the West Wind: Nature and History in Georgian Bay (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005)

June 18: The West
Group Readings:
-Duke: William A. Dobak, “Killing the Canadian Buffalo, 1821-1881.”
-Wynn, chapter 19
-James Murton, “Creating Order: the Liberals, the Landowners, and the Draining of Sumas Lake, British Columbia,” Environmental History, January, 2008.
-Shannon Stunden Bower, “Watershed: Conceptualizing Manitoba’s Drained Landscape, 1895-1950,” Environmental History, 12(4), 2007, 796-810
-Karen Jones, “From Big Bad Wolf to Ecological Hero: Canis Lupus and the Culture(s) of Nature in the American–Canadian West,” American Review of Canadian Studies
-John Varty, “On Protein, Prairie Wheat, and Good Bread: Rationalizing Technologies and the Canadian State,” Canadian Historical Review, Volume 85, Number 4 (December 2004), 721-754.

-Clinton Evans, War on Weeds in the Prairie West (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2002).
-George Colpitts, Game in the Garden: A Human History of Wildlife in Western Canada to 1940 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002).
-Theodore Binnema, Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001).

June 20 – Field Trip: Arboretum or Chaudiere Falls

June 25, 27; July 2 – No Course: Summer Break

July 4 – Landscapes and Resource Extraction
Group Readings:
-Wynn, Chapters 18; 20
-Jessica Van Horssen, Graphic Novel on Asbestos:

-Kathryn Morse, The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003).
-Liza Piper, The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009).
-John D. Wirth, Smelter Smoke in North America: The Politics of Transborder Pollution (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press,

July 9 – Rivers and Hydro Power
Group Readings:
Caroline Desbiens, “Producing North and South: A Political Geography of Hydro
Development in Quebec,” Canadian Geographer 48, no. 2 (2004): 101-18.
-Frank Quinn’s POWI paper:

-Lee Botts, Evolution of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2005).
-George N. Hood, Against the Flow: Rafferty Alameda and the Politics of the Environment (Saskatoon, SK: Fifth House Publishers, 1994).
-Martin & Offman, Power Struggles: Hydro Development and First Nations in Manitoba and Quebec
-Jean L. Manore, Cross-Currents: Hydroelectricity and the Engineering of Northern Ontario (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 1999)
– H.V. Nelles, The Politics of Development: Forests, Mines, and Hydro-Electric Power in Ontario, 1849-1941, 2nd ed. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).
-David Massell, Quebec Hydropolitics: The Peribonka Concessions of the Second World War (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011).
-Karl Froschauer, White Gold: Hydroelectric Power in Canada (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2000).

July 11: Urban Development
Group Readings:
-Duke: Ken Cruikshank and Nancy B. Bouchier, “Blighted Communities and Obnoxious Industries: Constructing Environmental Inequality on an Industrial Waterfront, Hamilton, Ontario, 1890-1960.”
-Wynn, chapter 14
-Michèle Dagenais, “The Urbanization of Nature: Water Networks and Green Spaces in
Montreal,” in MacEachern and Turkel, Method & Meaning, 216-235.
-Arn Keeling, “Sink or Swim: Water Pollution and Environmental Politics in Vancouver, 1889-1975”, BC Studies 142/143 (2004): 69-101.
-Joanna Dean, “‘Said tree is a veritable nuisance:’ Ottawa’s Street Trees, 1869-1939,” Urban History Review: Revue d’histoire urbaine XXXIV, 1 (Fall 2005), 46-57.

-Cole Harris, The Reluctant Land: Society, Space, and Environment in Canada Before Confederation (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008).

July 16: Western Rivers
Group Readings:
-Tina Loo, “Disturbing the Peace: Environmental Change and the Scales of Justice on a Northern River,” Environmental History (2007) 12(4): 895-919.
-Tina Loo with Meg Stanley, “An Environmental History of Progress: Damming the Peace and Columbia Rivers,” Canadian Historical Review Volume 92, issue 3, 2011, 399-427.
-Tina Loo, “People in the Way: Modernity, Environment, and Society on the Arrow Lakes,” BC Studies #142/143, (Summer/Autumn 2004), 161-196.

-Neil Swainson, Conflict over the Columbia: The Canadian Background to an Historic Treaty (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1979).
-Christopher Armstrong, Matthew Evenden, and H.V. Nelles, The River Returns: An Environmental History of the Bow (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009).
-Matthew Evenden, Fish versus Power: An Environmental History of the Fraser River (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

July 18: Niagara
Group Readings:
-Daniel Macfarlane chapter on Niagara (will be made available on WebCT)
-EHTV episode on Niagara Falls
-Anne Whiston Spirn, “Constructing Nature, The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmstead,” in William Cronon, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996).

-Ginger Strand, Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008).
-Pierre Berton, Niagara: A History of the Falls (New York: Kodansha America, 1997).

July 23 – St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project
Group Readings:
-Wynn, chapter 21
-Macfarlane, POWI Paper:
-Macfarlane, chapters from manuscript
-IJ article or Environments of Mobility chapter or Joy Parr chapter on Iroquois
-Ontario Hydro DVD on St. Lawrence Project

July 25 – field trip: St. Lawrence Seaway

July 30 – The North
Group Readings:
-Wynn, chapter 23
-Duke: John Sandlos, “Where the Scientists Roam: Ecology, Management, and Bison in North Canada.”
-Stephen Bocking, “Science and Spaces in the Northern Environment,”
Environmental History (2007) 12(4): 867-894
-P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Matthew Farish, “The Cold War on Canadian Soil: Militarizing a Northern Environment,” Environmental History (2007) 12(4): 920-950
– Matthew Farish and P. Whitney Lackenbauer, “High Modernism in the Arctic: Planning Frobisher Bay and Inuvik,” Journal of Historical Geography 35 (2009): 519-

-K.S. Coates and W.R. Morrison, The Alaska Highway in World War II: The U.S. Army of Occupation in Canada’s Northwest (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992).
-Michael Byers, Who Owns the Arctic: Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North (New York: Douglas & McIntyre, 2010).
-Whitney Lackenbauer, Ken Coates, Bill Morrison, and Greg Poelzer, Arctic Front: Defending Canadian Interests in the Far North (Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2008).
-Shelagh Grant, Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America (Toronto: Douglas & MacIntyre, 2011).

August 1 – No Class (University closed)

August 6 – Environmental Movement/Identity
Group Readings:
-Duke: Jennifer Read, “‘Let us Heed the Voice of Youth’: Laundry detergents, Phosphates, and the Emergence of the Environmental Movement in Ontario.”
-Frank Zelko, “Making Greenpeace: The Development of Direct Action Environmentalism in British Columbia,” BC Studies 142/143 2004: 197-239
-Donald Worster, “Wild, Tame, and Free: Comparing Canadian and U.S. Views of Nature,” in John M. Findlay and Ken S. Coates, Canadian-American Relations West of the Rockies, (University of Washington Press, 2002). (Carleton library: catalogue and e-book)
-George Altmeyer, “Three Ideas of Nature in Canada, 1893-1914,” Journal of Canadian Studies 11(1976): 21-36.
-Cavell, Janice, “The Second Frontier: The North in English-Canadian Historical Writing,” Canadian Historical Review, 83.3 (September 2002), 364-389.
-Andrew Biro, “Half-Empty or Half-Full?: Water Politics and the Canadian National Imaginary,” in Karen Bakker, Eau Canada: The Future of Canada’s Water (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007).

-John E. Carroll, Environmental Diplomacy: An Examination and A Prospective of Canadian–U.S. Transboundary Environmental Relations (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983).

August 8 – Gas and Oil
Group Readings:
-Wynn, chapter 22; 27-28
-Tammy Nemeth, “Continental Drift: Canada-U.S. Oil and Gas Relations, 1958 to 1988.” (will be made available for download)
-Sean Kheraj blog post (

-William Kilbourn, Pipeline (Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1970)
-Tammy Nemeth, “Canada-U.S. oil and gas relations, 1958 to 1974,” UBC: Ph.D. dissertation, 2007.
-Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent (Toronto: Greystone Books, 2008).

August 13 –
Group Readings:


August 15 – Papers due

Thoughts on a spring/summer enviro history seminar …

I have the opportunity to teach a fourth-year (Honours) Canadian environmental history seminar during the spring/summer semesters at Carleton University. It meets Monday and Wednesday evenings for 3 hours on both nights from early May to the middle of August – this is the equivalent of an 8-month seminar packed into 4 months. For the last few days, I’ve been hard at work trying to craft the syllabus and select the readings. I’m finding that the course schedule and times provide both unique challenges and unique opportunities.

On the one hand, being able to devote so many hours to the subject of Canadian environmental history is exciting – I have room to include most of the major books, chapters, and articles written on Canadian environmental history, and can cover in some depth most of the major themes. Granted, my preferences definitely run towards the post-Confederation period, and water history in particular. Also, the summer/spring time span is ideal for field trips (i.e. it ain’t cold!) as is the three-hour time slot.

On the other hand, since many students will be working full-time, what can I realistically expect in terms of reading loads? Additionally, as the course is on Mondays and Wednesdays, I probably can’t expect the students – aside of the supremely organized and far-sighted – to read very much for the Wednesday class, given that there is only one day in between.

As a result, Wednesdays will be often used for field trips and presentations; I’m also requiring students to present their book reviews on the day where the theme fits the subject of the review as a way of supplementing the group readings. I’m already planning to take them to the St. Lawrence Seaway (surprise, surprise) as well as the Rideau Canal. I’m also considering Gatineau Park, Arboretum, or Chaudiere Falls/mills area, and looking for other ideas in the Ottawa area.

I am thinking about using an online component for digital discussions, but haven’t definitively decided on that (and am open to suggestions). I am planning to use the new smart phone app on the Rideau Canal put out by Carleton’s Centre for Public History for a field trip of said canal (which conveniently borders the campus) provided that it makes its scheduled May release date!