29512 - Global History: Economy, Environment and Society (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Clean water and sanitation Affordable and clean energy Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module, the student will have acquired a good understanding of the methodological principles of historiography regarding the global economic system, and will have been introduced to the most recent research trends on the global dimension of socio-ecological interdependencies.

Course contents

The course aims to provide students with the analytical tools to understand the main themes of environmental history within a global perspective. The first part of the course will be dedicated to defining the discipline: its origin and development; key concepts, themes and approaches; the relationship with other research areas, both in the historiographical field and in other disciplinary fields. The course will then examine in more depth the evolution of the relationship between humankind and the rest of nature in the modern period, starting with the first industrial revolution. The energy regime and the technical innovations resulting from the industrialisation process have led to a huge leap in activities related to the use of natural resources, in both quantitative and qualitative terms. In the pre-industrial period, societies had to deal with environmental problems mainly of a local and temporary character. As a result of industrial development, these problems have gradually been overcome, but others of a global and long-term character have emerged. For these reasons, according to many scientists, we have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene, in which human action has become the main cause of the Earth’s transformation.

The course will be organised around the following themes:
1.Introduction to environmental history (approaches, methodologies, concepts)
2.The environmental implications of the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society (energy transition, urbanisation, resource consumption)
3.The environmental issue during the “great acceleration” (the global dimension of environmental problems, the emergence and consolidation of mass environmentalism, the development of environmental governance)
4.A case study: water (intensification of the exploitation of water resources; conflicts between different users; transformation of the hydrographic network)
5.The current debate on the Anthropocene and its implications in the field of historiography.


The list is intended as reference for the topic that will be addressed in class and for the preparation of the final paper:

Amitav Ghosh, La grande cecità. Il cambiamento climatico e l'impensabile, Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 2017

Christophe Bonneuil, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, La terra, la storia e noi. L'evento antropocene, Roma: Treccani, 2019

Christopher Jones, Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014

Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Climate of History: Four Theses, «Critical Inquiry», 35, 2009, pp. 197-222

Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Planet: An Emergent Humanist Category, «Critical Inquiry» 46, 2019, 1-31

Eva Jakobsson, Industrialization of rivers: A water system approach to hydropower development, «Knowledge and Policy», 14 2002, pp. 41-56

Fabien Locher, Grégory Quenet, L’histoire environnementale: origines, enjeux et perspectives d’un nouveau chantier, «Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine», 56, 2009, pp. 7-38

Fredrik A. Jonsson, The Industrial Revolution in the Anthropocene, «The Journal of Modern History» 84, 2012, pp. 679-696

Gabriella Corona, Breve storia dell'ambiente in Italia, Bologna: il Mulino, 2015

Giacomo Bonan, Riflessi sull’acqua. Ricerca storica e biografie fluviali, «Contemporanea» 22, 2019, pp. 317-328

Giacomo Parrinello, Systems of Power: A Spatial Envirotechnical Approach to Water Power and Industrialization in the Po Valley of Italy, ca. 1880–1970, «Technology and Culture», 59, 2018, pp. 652-688

Helmuth Trischler, The Anthropocene. A Challenge for the History of Science, Technology, and the Environment, «Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin», 24, 2016, pp. 309-335

Joachim Radkau, Storia globale dell'ambiente, Gorizia: Leg, 2020
John R. McNeill, Peter Engelke, La grande accelerazione. Una storia ambientale dell'Antropocene dopo il 1945, Torino: Einaudi, 2018

John R. McNeill, Qualcosa di nuovo sotto il sole: storia dell'ambiente nel XX secolo, Torino: Einaudi, 2002

Kate Brown, Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future, Londra: Allen Lane, 2019

Marco Armiero, Stefania Barca, La natura della nazione, la nazione della natura. Appunti sulla storia ambientale negli Stati Uniti, «Storica», 18, 2000, pp. 64-118

Matthew Evenden, Beyond the Organic Machine? New Approaches in River Historiography, «Environmental History», 23, 2018, pp. 698–720

Paul Warde, Libby Robin, Sverker Sörlin, The Environment: A History of the Idea, Baltimora: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018

Paul Warde, Libby Robin, Sverker Sörlin, The Future of Nature: Documents of Global Change, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013

Pier Angelo Toninelli, Lo sviluppo economico moderno, Venezia: Marsilio, 2006

Salvatore Adorno, I limiti del pianeta. Note e appunti sull’Antropocene, in L. Scalisi - C.J. Hernando Sánchez (eds), Fra le mura della modernità. Le rappresentazioni del limite dal Cinquecento ad oggi, Roma: Viella, 2019, pp. 337-351

Simon L. Lewis, Mark Maslin, Il pianeta umano. Come abbiamo creato l'Antropocene, Torino: Einaudi, 2019

Simone Neri Serneri, Incorporare la natura. Storie ambientali del Novecento, Roma: Carocci, 2005

Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy, «Economy and Society» 38, 2009, pp. 399-432

William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995


Teaching methods

The course will include some lectures in the first introductory part. This will be followed by teaching through seminars, in which the active participation of students is expected. For the preparation of class discussion, didactic materials will be uploaded; students will need to prepare and engage with these texts according to the reading schedule agreed at the start of the course.

Assessment methods

This 6 CFU course is part of the 12 CFU Integrated Course “Profili di storia globale (C.I.) (LM)". If the student has the Integrated Course (12 CFU) in his/her study plan, the final grade for not-attending ones will result from the arithmetic average of the marks obtained in the common written exam (“Profili di storia globale: sfera pubblica e comunicazioni di massa" and “Profili di storia globale: Economia, ambiente, società") and the final paper.

The final grade will be assigned by the professor with whom the paper’s subject has been agreed (either Bonan or Tolomelli).

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

Students will write a final paper (40,000 beatings including the all text/15-18 pages) on one of the topics dealt with in one of the two modules.

In addition to the final paper not-attending students have to pass an oral exam on following books (the exam also applies to the second module of the integrated course):

Sebastian Conrad, Storia Globale. Un'introduzione, Roma: Carocci, 2015

Christophe Bonneuil, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, La terra, la storia e noi. L'evento antropocene, Roma: Treccani, 2019

The exam will consist of 6 open questions (3 for each book) that students have to answer in 90'. The final mark will result from the average between the marks of the paper and the exam


With regard to the outlined criteria, the evaluation will result from following assessment scale:

Excellent (30 cum laude)
Very Good (28-30)
Good (25-27)
Satisfactory (22-24)
Sufficient (18-21)


Teaching tools

During the introductory part, the teacher will use power point presentations and will make use of exemplar documents available online. For the seminars, material will be assigned for class discussion: this will be available online on the “teaching materials” page or via the university’s online resources (accessible using this link: https://sba.unibo.it/it ). At least a passive knowledge of English is required, since some key material will be in that language.

Office hours

See the website of Giacomo Bonan