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FIRE AND WESTERN CIVILIZATION (HIS-243054)

Center for Distance Learning Home > Distance Learning Catalog > Historical Studies >

Course Description:


Survey the history of civilization as the story of humanity’s relationship to fire, one of the most productive and most destructive forces we live with. Learn how fire, as a tool and as a technology, shaped both the landscape and ecology of the planet and the culture and psyche of the primate who tamed it. Understand the role that domesticated fire played in pre-agrarian and agrarian societies; in ancient Greece and Rome; in Asia and in pre-contact North America; in pre-industrial Europe; in Asia and Australia; and (through the burning of coal and petroleum) in creating the modern industrial age and the largest public policy problem we face today, Global Warming. Integrate perspectives from anthropology, sociology, ecology, engineering, religious studies and social and environmental history in grasping both the similarities (all civilizations controlled fire) and differences (no other civilization systematically exploited fossil fuel on the scale that Western Civilization did) between Western and non-Western civilizations. Learn about the development and distinctive features of Western civilization and the relation of Western Civilization’s development to other regions of the world by investigating environmental history. Trace how humanity’s evolving control of fire shaped the institutions, economies, social relations, cultural characteristics and practices of human societies over time.

Prerequisite: successful completion of either World History 1 or 2; evidence of readiness for upper-level study (completion of two years' college credit).

This course fully meets the General Education requirement in Western Civilization.


This online course is offered through the Center for Distance Learning. You can take this as an individual course or as part of an online degree program, with term starts in March, May, September, November and January. View current term offerings and all online courses. Click here to register for online courses.

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Liberal Study
Upper Level
Credits: 4
Meets General Education Requirement In: Western Civilization-Full

Term(s) Offered (Subject to Change) : Spring 1. Summer. Fall 1.

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