Revising the syllabus

Since I last posted a draft syllabus for the Canadian environmental history seminar I’m teaching this spring/summer (it starts on May 9) I’ve made a few revisions – some in response to suggestions from others (see revised iteration below). One of my main issues was which edited reader to use as the required text:  Alan MacEachern & Bill Turkel’s Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental History or David Duke’s  Canadian Environmental History: Essential Readings. I used Duke in the previous draft partially out of convenience, but after going through Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental History in more detail, I still feel like Canadian Environmental History: Essential Readings is (ever so slightly) better for this class, though I had Method and Meaning put on reserve and will use readings from it. I was tempted to have students purchase both, but since I also wanted them to have a narrative and chronological required text (Graeme Wynn’s environmental history of Canada), I felt all three might be breaking the bank.

One of the main reasons for my selection is that this will be the first exposure to environmental history for many of the students, and I feel like the Duke reader is a bit more appropriate for those who need an introduction to the content and nature of environmental history as a field. When I taught a 3rd year history of Canadian-American environmental relations course this past semester, no one in the class had ever taken an environmental history course at Carleton, so unless students from this environmental relations course sign up for the seminar, I’m not going to have anyone in the seminar with any background in environmental history. As an aside, Joanna Dean has taught a second-year enviro history course in the past at Carleton, but hasn’t done so in the last few years, thus students entering their fourth year won’t have had a chance to take her class. But she is teaching the class (with Will Knight) in 2012-13.

I feel Methods and Meaning is great, but more appropriate for a graduate class, or for a seminar where students had already been exposed to environmental history. I find it isn’t as appropriate for this seminar because it is more methodology, rather than content. In the undergraduate lecture courses I have taught thus far in my career, my focus has been on methodology over content: by that, I mean that I consider it more important that students come out of courses better equipped to research, think, and write historically than it is that they remember the specific historical content (though the two tend to go somewhat hand-in-hand, at least in the short term). I’d rather hear from a former student, twenty years from now, that they really learned how to use primary sources in my class than that they still remember a lot of facts about the progressive era wildlife treaties between Canada and the U.S.

But in this seminar I think it is more important that the required text hit all the notes in terms of content, which I think they need before engaging methodological issues.I  will certainly give them methodology with the selected additional readings, their assignments, and the field trips. I think the Duke reader does a better job of “content” in the ways I’m looking for – by that I mean it provides a more representative sampling of the subjects of Canadian environmental history. For example, the MacEachern/Turkel reader has very little on hydro and water history (aside of Michele Dagenais’s contribution) which is one of the main foci of my seminar.

Moving away from the textbook issue and to other changes to the seminar, I decided on Chaudiere Falls/Lebreton Flats as one of the fieldtrip destinations, in large part because students could read Phil Jenkins’s An Acre of Time: The Enduring Value of Place to accompany the trip. I changed some of the grade weighting a bit, and moved the due date of an assignment to earlier in the term. I tweaked the readings and dates of some subjects a bit for practical reasons, and I combined Niagara Falls and the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project into one day.

Another issue that came up which I had not considered was that this course is cross-listed as both an Honours and a M.A. class, and several graduate students from other disciplines are taking the course. Thus, I had to consider the ways that I might change the requirements so that they have what essentially amounts to a “harder” class than those taking it as undergraduates. Basically, I kept the readings the same, but am asking more from the grad students in terms of presentations (they do 2, the undergrads do 1) and research paper (longer, more sophisticated, etc.). And I’ll just expect more from them in general.

I spent a fair bit of time considering whether to use additional online elements, such as virtual discussion groups, digital primary source assignments, or other cutting-edge techniques. This included meeting and talking with others who had incorporated WebCT or used the web in interesting ways. To this point I have not made any significant changes in this regard, in part because I’m hoping that since this course is a seminar the structure will inherently promote the type of interactions and discussions I desire, though I am still open to suggestions.






Canada: Ideas & Culture – Canadian Environmental History

Spring/Summer 2012

Dr. Daniel Macfarlane


Class Location: 213 Tory

Class Hours: Monday & 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, though 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? 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 (25%)
  • · book review and presentation (15%) – due on relevant date
  • · historiography paper or Exploring Ottawa assignment (25%) – June 20
  • · research paper (35%) – 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 in the readings schedule. Furthermore, students must do a 20-30 minute presentation of 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. The use of other non-paper research findings is also encouraged (e.g. films, websites, GIS maps, etc.).

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, your methodology and outline the related historiography.

Research paper: an approximately 25-page paper, based on the paper proposal, which is based on primary sources and also engages relevant secondary sources and historiographical research. Students cannot use a paper from another class. The paper should be original, substantially based on primary sources, cogently argued, give clear evidence of personal thought, and be clearly written.


*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 can result in an incomplete mark. The format for all formal written assignments will be 12 point 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).


-in addition to the Wynn and Duke books, the following book is also on reserve at the Carleton library: Alan MacEachern and William Turkel, eds., Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental History (Toronto: Thompson-Nelson, 2008).














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 14 – What is Environmental History?

Group Readings:

-Duke: Donald Worster, “Doing Environmental History,” William Cronon, “The Uses of Environmental History,” Douglas R. Weiner, “A Death-Defying Attempt to Articulate a Coherent Definition of Environmental History.”

-“What is Environmental History,” (available for download at:

-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



-Cole Harris, The Reluctant Land: Society, Space, and Environment in Canada Before Confederation (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008) (chapters 1-5)


May 21 – Fur Trade and settlement

Group Readings:

-Wynne, chapters 4-7

-Duke: Ramsay Cook, “Making a Garden out of a Wilderness,” Paul Hackett, “Averting Disaster: the Hudson’s Bay Company and Smallpox in Western Canada during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.”

-Laurentian thesis, Staple thesis, Metropolitan-Hinterland thesis – Canadian Encyclopedia Online:



-Hans Carlson, Home is the Hunter: The James Bay Cree and their Land (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008).

-Theodore Binnema, Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001).

-Cole Harris, The Reluctant Land: Society, Space, and Environment in Canada Before Confederation (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008) (chapters 7-12)


May 23 – No Class (University Closed)


May 28 – No class  


May 30 – 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

-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 (on reserve).



-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).


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).


June 6 – Field Trip – Rideau Canal

-Carleton History Dept app and website on Rideau Canal:

-Center for Culture / History / Environment, Reading the Urban Landscape:

-Robert Passfield, “A Wilderness Survey: Laying out the Rideau Canal, 1826-1832” in Science, Technology and Medicine in Canada’s Past, Richard A. Jarrell & James P. Hull, eds, (Thornhill, Ontario: The Scientia Press, 1991), 149-171.


June 11 – 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 13: Landscapes 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: 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, 2000).

-Phil Jenkins, An Acre of Time: The Enduring Value of Place (New York: Macfarlane, Walter, and Ross, 1996)


June 20: Field Trip – Chaudiere/Lebreton Flats (Historiography Paper or Exploring Ottawa assignment due)



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


July 4: 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 13 (January 2008).

-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).

-Shannon Stunden Bower, Wet Prairie: People, Land, and Water in Agricultural Manitoba (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011).


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:

-Arn Keeling, “Sink or Swim: Water Pollution and Environmental Politics in Vancouver, 1889-1975”, BC Studies 142/143 (2004): 69-101.



-Lee Botts, Evolution of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2005).

-Thibault Martin & Steve Offman, Power Struggles: Hydro Development and First Nations in Manitoba and Quebec (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2008).

-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: Western Water

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.



-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).

-George N. Hood, Against the Flow: Rafferty-Alameda and the Politics of the Environment (Saskatoon, SK: Fifth House Publishers, 1994).


July 16: 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 (on reserve).

-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.


July 18: 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:



-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).


July 23: St. Lawrence & Niagara

Group Readings:

-Wynn, chapter 21

-Daniel Macfarlane, POWI Paper:

Daniel Macfarlane, chapters from manuscript on St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project (will be made available on WebCT)

-Daniel Macfarlane chapter on Niagara (will be made available on WebCT)

-EHTV episode on Niagara Falls:

-Ontario Hydro DVD on St. Lawrence Project



-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).

-Jeff Alexander, Pandora’s Locks: The Opening of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009).


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 Northern 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



-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: 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.



-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 6: No Class (University closed)


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 (available online)

-Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent (Toronto: Greystone Books, 2008).


August 13: TBD


August 15: Papers due













2 thoughts on “Revising the syllabus

  1. Hi Daniel:
    An interesting post & a good syllabus. I can’t really disagree with you about content: when Bill & I put together Method & Meaning, we knew we wouldn’t be covering the existing field in the way that a greatest hits collection can.
    …But it’s weird to hear our book compared to Duke’s because I had a chapter in Duke’s book that was included — even edited — without either my or my original publisher’s knowledge or permission. I don’t know if that was the experience of the other authors in the Duke collection, but it was mine. It was neat to learn that something I’d written was reprinted in a collection, but in retrospect I should have kicked up a little sand about it.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Alan. Without knowing much about copyright law, I’m a little shocked that they could use and edit your contribution without your (or your publisher’s) knowledge. I too would be curious to hear about the other authors. I really like Method and Meaning and the approach, and it would be my preferred choice if the students had already had some exposure to enviro history. But I was feeling a bit guilty about not using it, hence the post to kind of explain why – and now I almost feel like I should not use the Duke book out of protest and solidarity!

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