Spring 2022

Commodities, Nature and Society

Listed in: History, as HIST-411

Formerly listed as: HIST-91


Edward D. Melillo (Section 01)


[TE/TR/C] Participants in this seminar will explore the environmental and social histories of nine commodities: sugar, silver, silk, coffee, tobacco, sneakers, microchips, units of bandwidth, and the human body. Each of these commodities represents a complex array of linkages among producers, consumers, and intermediaries over time and space. Readings draw upon the disciplines of history, ecology, anthropology, and geography to place these commodities in their social, environmental, and spatial contexts. One of our aims is to understand the changing roles of natural systems and the divisions of labor that underlie the long-term processes of globalization. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Melillo.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Research seminars require independent research, including the framing of a research question, and the identification and analysis of relevant primary and secondary sources. History majors must write a 20-25 page, evidence-based paper. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2020, Spring 2022