The focus of the course is the Colorado River.
Using the work of the New West historians as a framework, we shall examine the role of the Colorado River in American History. After examining the geology of the Grand Canyon and the use made of the River and its resources by Native peoples, we shall examine the exploration of the Colorado River and its canyons by John Wesley Powell and other early European explorers.
The main theme of the course will be the important role that the water of the Colorado River has played in the Southwest. The battle among competing interests to harness the waters of the River, and the fight over the legal rights to use the water, has consumed essentially the entire twentieth century. By critically examining these fights, aided by readings from other disciplines, including environmental history, literature, economics, and ecology, the history of the Colorado River will suggest lessons about current public policy issues as well as insights into American attitudes about nature and natural resources, particularly water.
Course materials will be a set of readings that I have assembled and Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert.
Lecture and discussion
There will be a series of two or three-page reaction papers to each week's readings.
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Grades will be based on the weekly reaction papers and class participation.