Main Themes in Environmental History

History 4490/ 3388


Study guide to the 1st (Wilderness) Exam



Big History

Goldilocks Conditions

Environmental Determinism

Mono-causal explanations

Proximate cause vs. ultimate cause

River capture

Etymology of “wilderness” and

its use in English translations of the Bible

Refuge and Prospect Theory

Traditional – Enlightenment – Romanticism

Imperialist – Arcadian – Sublime

Lynn White – Gilbert White – David Thoreau

Thoreau, Romanticism and Primativism

Wilderness and American National Identity

Transcendentalism and the Wilderness

Frederick Law Olmstead and Yosemite Valley Reserve, (1864)

Jay Cooke and Yellowstone National Park (1872)

George Perkins Marsh and the Adirondacks, (1891 & 1894)

John Muir and Yosemite National Park (1890) & the Sierra Club (1891)

Frederic Jackson Turner and the End of the Frontier

Gifford Pinchot and the Forest Management Act (1897)

Joe Knowles and the Cult of the Savage (1913)

Mrs. Jeanne Carr and John Muir

John Muir and the Wilderness Cult


Discussion Themes:

·       Discuss the evolution of the idea of the wilderness in Western (i.e. Latin Christian) culture from the ancients to the Sierra Club.


·       Define environmental determinism and discuss (and defend) the degree to which you subscribe to this view of history.


·       Explain the concept of Big History and how it relates to environmental history.