AK1204 VT21-1 Environmental History

AK1204 VT21-1 Environmental History





190 million: according to the World Bank, this is the number of people who lived in a country different from their homeland in 2005. This fact calls for a better understanding of the history of migration and its relation with nature. In this course we will explore the environmental history of mass migrations. We will follow the paths of migrants who came to the New Worlds with their ideas about nature, their ways of using natural resources, and their bodies, that is, with their individual resistance or weakness toward environmental challenges. We will examine the heritage that migrants inscribed in the landscape as well the marks left by nature in their bodies and culture. And we will explore how ethnic/racial segregation and power relationships have produced an urban landscape deeply marked by the social experiences of immigrants.


Learning objectives

The course is designed to achieve the following aims:

Disciplinary goals:

  • Become familiar with historical categories, concepts, and methods
  • Acquire a deeper knowledge of environmental history (what it is, how it works, its own history, etc.)
  • Study in depth the connections between environment and migrations (19th-21st)

Research/analytical goals:

  • Critical analysis of sources
  • Design a minor research project


Final assignment

The students asked to write an entry for the Atlas (called GeoArchive) of the CLISEL project. Geo-archive is an open-access tool containing historical cases of interactions between migration and environmental/climatic changes. It encompasses information on the description of the case, policy responses to migration and loss & damage, and reflections of this case in the literary/audio-visual productions. The tool is mainly designed for teaching and outreach purposes as well as for providing locally grounded examples for local authorities and climate/migration policy stakeholders.

The entry should cover a case of environmentally induced migration, it should be more or less 2000 words long (not less than 1500, not more than 2500). It should follow the template that we will provide you. The entry must be discussed with Marco, before start working on it. Please, do not write your case without discussing it with us in advance, otherwise, it might be rejected. The students must present their entries to the class with a proper presentation (powerpoint or similar). More instructions will be given during the course.

Here you have two suggestions and attached you find the template and samples 1 and 2 of Atlas entry.

A list of already existing entries is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Q9V7utvpmeO30uXino-cx6qJ6XB8UwlvBO7vaQnB5LE/edit?usp=sharing


Weekly assignments

Please submit them using the "Assignments" section on the left bar of your page any time before the class.


Assignment Evaluation

Students will be evaluated for: their participation in the classes (25%), final assignment (50%), weekly assignments (25%).


Participation in the classes

Students are supposed to come to all classes having read the readings and done the weekly assignments on time. If someone must miss a class, she or he is supposed to inform the instructors. One absence is fine; two absences will require extra homework. More the two must be negotiated.


Special Needs

In line with KTH policy, additional support and/or consideration will be provided to any student who requires assistance due to a special needs diagnosis. In this case, students should contact the KTH coordinator for special needs students, Monica Barsch, as soon as possible. Monica can be reached by email at funka@kth.se or by phone at 08 790 70 98.



Plagiarism means using someone else’s ideas or work without providing full, clear acknowledgment. KTH treats plagiarism as a very serious matter. All suspected instances of plagiarism will be investigated fully and if proven, can lead to suspension from the university. You are strongly encouraged to check your awareness of plagiarism and related issues by looking at KTH’s plagiarism handbook, available at https://www.kth.se/student/studentliv/studentratt/fusk-och-plagiering-1.323885 During the course, you will be given information about the correct way to make references. Your final individual essay will be screened by text-matching software.



Marco Armiero, armiero@kth.se (main instructor and coordinator of the course)

Liubov Timonina, timonina@kth.se (teaching assistant)


Invited teachers: Roberta Biasillo, Daniele Valisena.



Most of the readings are from M. Armiero and R. Tucker, Environmental History of Modern Migrations (2017), which is available at the KTH library in an electronic format.

Other readings are available under "Files" here in Canvas or you can contact the instructor in case of problems.


Students’ guidebook

More information about the course are available in the students’ guidebook (in Canvas under "Files")


Permanent Zoom-link:  https://kth-se.zoom.us/j/69449924959?pwd=RWplK3BJNkJVMTJhdXU1YnRiN3dCUT09

Passcode: 021544

Please log in 5 minutes prior to the class to make sure we start on time.



Class Date & Time Themes Readings  Assignments
1 22/03 - 13-15

Setting the common rules for the course




Introduction to history and environmental history (part 1)



Assignment #1 (Oral): Introduce yourself (who are you; why are you taking this course; what would you like to learn)


Assignment #2: Define what is history (300 words) 
2 25/03 - 13-15 Introduction to environmental history (part 2) Worster, Donald, Appendix: doing environmental history, in: The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History (1988): 289-307.

Do you think that something could be missing applying the three approaches presented by Worster? (= do you believe that there is something that is not covered by Worster’s three approaches?)

(300 words)

3 29/03 - 13-15

Laboratory: Methods in environmental history

(the Lab format is a session in which we will explore environmental history in its making)


R. Williams, Sources and evidences, in R. Williams, The Historian’s toolbox (2012): 55-78.

Prepare one question (either genuine or critical) to Daniele (200 words)

4 1/04 - 13-15 Environmental history of modern migration 


M. Armiero and R. Tucker, Introduction, migrants in environmental history, in: Environmental history of Modern Migrations (2017): 1-16.

Assignment #1 (oral): Prepare a question to Armiero regarding this essay. The question can be (select one):

Genuine question: you ask something that you did not understand or you wish to know more

Critical question: you ask something because you do not agree with what you have read

Assignment #2:

Why do Armiero and Tucker use the example of the Okies to explain their approach to the EHM?

(300 words)

5 12/04 - 13-15 Environmental causes of migration 


Factors of environmental migration, in: Ionesco, D., Mokhnacheva, D., & Gemenne, F. (ed.) The Atlas of Environmental Migration (2017): 34-65.


Critical assignment: what is the main critique you can raise about this text?

(300 words)


6 15/04 - 13-15

Chinese immigrants in the Australian gold rush


Fei Sheng, Creating the threatening “others”: environment, Chinese immigrants and racist discourse in colonial Australia, in: Environmental history of Modern Migrations (2017): 124-142.

Which were the main accusations against Chinese immigrants?

Why were they racist?

(300 words) 

7 19/04 - 13-15 Internal migration in Brazil due to the drought


Angus Wright, Environmental degradation as a cause of migration: precautionary tales from Brazil, in: Environmental history of Modern Migrations (2017): 159-176.

This chapter has a strong argument. Please explain it and add if you agree with it or not  (300 words) 

8 22/04 - 13-15 Italian miners in Belgium


Daniele Valisena and Marco Armiero, Coal Lives: body, work and memory among Italian miners in Wallonia, Belgium, in: Environmental history of Modern Migrations (2017): 88-108.


Which kind of sources do the authors use? What are the pros and cons of those sources?

(300 words)

9 26/04 - 13-15

Classroom practice


Work in groups presenting the source each of you has selected; the aim is to ensure the quality of the source; the kind of information it can offer; the questions one can ask

Find a source which says something about the environmental history of migrations, write down a short text (max 400 words) explaining: what is the source; what it says about the theme; where you have found it

For more information about this exercise please see the course guidebook (available in Canvas under files)

10 29/04 - 13-15 Nativism, environmentalism and migration 


Adam Rome, “Nature Wars, Culture Wars: Immigration and Environmental Reform in Progressive America,” Environmental History 13 (July 2008): 432-453.


David Pellow and Lisa Sun-hee park, Nativist politics and environmental privilege: ecological and cultural conflicts concerning Latin American migration in the United States, in: Environmental history of Modern Migrations (2017): 143-156.


How would you explain the connection between nativism and environmentalism?

(300 words) 

11 3/05 - 13-15 The Great Siberian Migration  


Mark Sokolsky, Making the land Russian? Migration, settlement, and environment in the Russian Far East, 1860–1914, in: Environmental history of Modern Migrations (2017): 71-87.

Make a table with pros and cons about migrating to the Russian Far East

(at least 5 items each)


6/05 - 13-15

Problem-based class:

In which ways  is migration different from colonial expansion?


Jared Diamond, Collision at Cajamarca, in: Guns, Germs, and Steel (1999): 67-81.

You may wish to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5077BEJItUQ 


Write a 300 words answer to the question; in group, you will discuss the problem and design a comparison between migration and colonial expansion

13 10/05 - 13-15

Climate change and migration


Giovanni Bettini, Archaeologies of the future: tracing the lineage of contemporary discourses on the climate–migration nexus, in: Environmental history of Modern Migrations (2017): 191-206.

Which are the key concepts (or keywords) in Bettini’s chapter? (300 words)

14 17/05 - 13-15

Presentation of the GeoArchive


Roberta Biasillo, "Historical tools and current societal challenges: reflections on a collection of environmental migration cases", Fennia 198 (2020): 151–162

Submit an abstract of the case you wish to write about for the final assignment (400 words max)

15 20/05 - 13-15

Work in groups

Study the GeoArchive entries

Come with an idea, present it to your peers and get feedback




Course Summary:

Date Details Due