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The University of Southampton

HIST6125 The Environment in Modern China 1800-2018

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: • Introduce students to the environmental history of China • Encourage students to engage more broadly with the themes and methodologies of environmental history • Encourage students to place contemporary environmental problems in a historical context

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Modern Chinese environmental history
  • Themes and methodologies employed by environmental historian
  • Contemporary Chinese environmental issues
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work independently on a substantial piece of research
  • Write in a literate, sophisticated manner
  • Manage your time effectively
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explore and assess the approaches introduced in the module in discussion with your peers and tutors
  • Complete an assignment using some of the methods and source materials explored in the module
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Examine the role that the environment has played in shaping modern Chinese history
  • Adopt an environmental approach to researching history


Typically, the module will cover • An Introduction to Chinese Environmental History • The Environment of the Qing Empire • Drought Demons and Flood Dragons: Understanding Nature in Traditional China • The Land of Famine: The Environment and Humanitarian Catastrophes • Animals in the History of Modern China • The Nature of War: The Role of the Environment in Chinese Armed Conflicts • Leaping to Disaster: The Environment in Early Communist China • Mao’s War on Nature? Assessing the Communist Environmental Legacy • From the One Child Policy to the Three Gorges Dam: Late 20th Century Environmental Policies • The Nature of Cities: The Ecology of Rapid Urbanisation • Toxic Environments: The Human Cost of the Chinese Economic Miracle

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include * Weekly 2-hr seminars * Essay tutorials Learning activities include * Using (English Language) Primary Source Materials * Reading work of scholars from the natural and social sciences alongside the historiography of modern China * Seminar presentations of independent research

Preparation for scheduled sessions80
Wider reading or practice8
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Edgerton-Tarpley, Kathryn (2008). Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China. 

Perdue, Peter C (1987). Exhausting the Earth: State and Peasant in Hunan, 1500-1850. 

Muscolino, Micah (2015). The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938–1950. 

Zhang Jiayan (2014). Coping with Calamity: Environmental Change and Peasant Response in Central China, 1736-1949.. 

Smil, Vaclav (2004). China’s Past, China’s Future: Energy, Food, Environment. 

Li, Lillian M. (2007). Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s-1990s. 

Duara, Prasenjit. The Crisis of Global Modernity : Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future.. 

Dai Qing and John Thibodeau, Philip B. Williams, Probe International., and International Rivers Network (1998). The River Dragon Has Come! : The Three Gorges Dam and the Fate of China's Yangtze River and It's People. 

Lora-Wainwright, Anna (2013). Fighting for Breath Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village. 

Shapiro, Judith (2001). Mao's War against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 90%
Presentation  (10 minutes) 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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