History/ES 247 Reading Guide


  • William Cronon, "A Place for Stories:  Nature, History, and Narrative," Journal of American History 78.4 (March 1992), 1347-1376.  JSTOR
  • Sample: Maine: A Guide "Down East", American Guide Series, written by workers of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the state of Maine, sponsored by the Maine development commission (1937). Internet Archive

Further reading:

  • Donald Worster, "The Vulnerable Earth:  Toward A Planetary History," and "Appendix:  Doing Environmental History," in Worster, ed., The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History (1988), 3-22, 289-307.  (e-reserve)


  • We end the course with a reading by Bill Cronon, whose 1994 article, "The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature," and whose 1983 monograph, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England, informed two of our discussions at the beginning of the class. Has your reading of his arguments changed over the course of the semester?
  • What guidelines and warnings does Cronon offer about the narratives that we read—and write—in environmental history? What guidelines and criteria does he offer for writing good history? What do you—and can you—make of those?
  • Has "thinking environmentally" changed how you think about history, about the study of the past?
  • Has "thinking historically" changed how you think about/understand the environment (nature, wilderness, ecosystems, preservation, conservation)?
  • Where are we now, in our thinking and understanding of Maine history and of the history of Maine? What do we understand better than we had before? What concerns us? Have we come full circle, or are we someplace new?

  • "What we call the beginning is often the end
    And to make an end is to make a beginning.
    The end is where we start from....

    "We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time...."

    T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding" V, from Four Quartets (1943)

Reading period and exam period link:  I'd Rather Be...