Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Environmental History of the Neotropics (Latin America and the Caribbean) in the Capitalocene
Academic Year
Semester 1
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  2500 Words  50%
Semester Assessment Open examination  2500 Words  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  2500 Words  50%
Supplementary Assessment Open examination  2500 Words  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a critical understanding of the main events, processes and conflicts emerging from the study of environmental history in modern and contemporary Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and the main consequent transformations on Neotropical landscapes during the globalisation

Demonstrate a critical understanding of main schools and trends in LAC environmental history, navigating their fragmentation and diversity in analytical units, to discover the potential for gaps and innovative histories as well as to engage in current debates.

Demonstrate a critical understanding of alternative sources of history, such as footprints in nature, landscape, or peoples, while positioning themselves properly to advance decolonial approaches to the official, mainstream, or colonial narratives

Demonstrate a clear ability to further explore histories of human and non-human subjects of nature and landscape using the appropriate methodologies.

Brief description

Environmental history in the Neotropics (Latin America and the Caribbean LAC) is an emerging and timely interdisciplinary field. However, many environmental histories in the Neotropical region are yet to be told, such as the histories of the Neotropical glaciers, of the Andes, of queer territories, of Escobar’s hippos, of native seeds, and so on.
This module introduces the environmental history of the Neotropical region and its method. As such, its contents may be placed chronologically and geographically beyond administrative and political frontiers. This module also provides tools to approach history from a different perspective using the ‘Capitalocene’ as a timeframe. Its lessons are invitations to think of elements such as ecoregions, socioecosystems, or nature as historical subjects. Additionally, this module also considers a Latin American decolonial lecture of the environmental history, presenting ways to dialogue with Global South (or Souths’) epistemologies which have less capitalist visions of ‘Nature’.


This module aims to introduce students to the history of LAC from alternative perspectives which include the environment as subject of analysis, and moreover to inspire future deeper engagements with its study. The students will approach nature as a whole that links human and a wide variety of non-human beings, also recognised as historical subjects. Additionally, they will understand the use of environmental historical methods, including field work approaches, while developing the necessary skills to get them started.


1: Key concepts and geographies
2: Pre-Columbian and colonial environmental history
3: Racial landscapes and scientific expeditions in the dawn of globalisation.
Case Studies: 1) The Great Caribbean; 2) The Humboldt expeditions.
4: Extractive landscapes and banana wars: Liberal reforms and capitalist expansion.
Case studies: 1) Banana plantations; 2) Guano in the Pacific.
5: El Dorado: Extractive landscapes of mining
6: Landscapes of freedom and resistance.
Case study: The Palenques and the Pacific Black communities in the nineteenth century.
7: Environment and public health: History of the disease.
8: More urban than rural: The urbanisation of LAC.
9: Landscapes of revolution: Peasants and Indigenous peoples in the twentieth century.
Case studies: Mexican, Cuban and Bolivian revolutions.
10: Postdevelopment approaches to the environmental history of the twentieth century.
Case study: The long Green Revolution (e.g. coffee; to be studied in depth in a seminar).
11: Histories of water and forests.
Case study: The Amazon Forest.
12: Histories of Neotropical animals.
13: Histories of conservationism and exclusion.
Case study: National parks.
14: Landscapes of insurgence.
Case studies: 1) The Tupamaros; 2) The Colombian guerrillas.
15: Climate history and disasters in LAC.
Case studies: 1) El Niño and La Niña; 2) Melting Andean glaciers.
16: The flow of energy, materials or biomass. Use of social metabolism and quantitative methodologies.
(This lecture is associated to a workshop seminar)
17: Impact of free trade and neoliberal reforms in the Neotropical landscapes.
18: Contemporary territorialities of the Abya Yala.
Case studies: 1) Zapatism; 2) Ecofeminisms and decolonial feminisms.

1: Literature review and framework analysis of historiographies in LAC environmental history: A workshop using Zotero.
2: Applying environmental history methodologies. 'Home' project.
3: Student Choice Seminar. (proposed: history of Neotropical flora, Neotropical edible plants, Neotropical medicinal plants, Neotropical fauna).
4: Coffee plantations’ origins and Green Revolution deforestation.
5: Social metabolism and quantitative/ statistical analysis.
6: Rights of nature and the Latin American ‘pink tide’.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Co-ordinating with others Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.
Creative Problem Solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and assignments.
Critical and analytical thinking Students will develop their critical and analytical thinking by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the seminars.
Digital capability Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Professional communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework; skills in oral presentation will
Real world sense Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Subject Specific Skills Students will develop knowledge of post-war German history within the context of the Cold War. They will also gain familiarity with methods of global and transnational history, as well as the use of relevant primary and secondary sources relating to


This module is at CQFW Level 6