Part of a poster made by an unknown artist to fight marine oil pollution in the 1950s. Source: Riksarkivet/Swedish National Archives.

Environmental history of the baltic sea

The course will provide an overall picture of the main phases of pollution and protection of the Baltic Sea over the past century.

The Baltic Sea is a contradictory area. It is said to have been the most polluted, the most researched and also the most protected sea in the world. The course will provide an overall picture of the main phases of these developments in the context of the major environmental and socioeconomic and political changes in Northern Europe since the late 19th century until the 21st century. The main reasons for pollution but also for protection on the local (urban), the national, the international (BSR), and when appropriate also on the global level will be addressed.

The course will discuss the role of environmental policy, media, science, and technology in this region that was highly divided during the Cold War, in particular. Case studies and comparative examples will address the Soviet Union/Russia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Poland and Baltic States. International/global topics include emergence of oil accidents, radioactive fallout, toxic substances, and nutrient problems. Making of the first international marine protection conventions between NATO, Warsaw Pact and neutral countries will be also highlighted.

The course will consist of lectures. An internet site will provide access to additional information and articles of different topics. The modes of assessment consist of A) writing a learning diary and B) an investigative essay. Because media is one of the main themes to be addressed, the investigative essay should focus this year on planning a manuscript of an imaginary television/social media documentary of two freely chosen themes of the environmental history of the Baltic Sea. What kind of documentaries you would like to see, what issues they should address and how they should be made and for whom? Please note that you can write this essay from your own personal point of view no matter what your own academic or professional background is. Please take a look at some nature documentaries to figure out what kind of narrative you like. The essay can be written in Finnish, Swedish or English. Delayed submission will naturally lower course grade.

The course is open for all students. It is highly suitable for both Finnish and international students interested in environmental themes and representing social sciences, humanities, and/or natural sciences at the University of Helsinki.

11.10.2018 at 09:00 - 25.10.2018 at 23:59


Here is the course’s teaching schedule. Check the description for possible other schedules.

Mon 29.10.2018
16:15 - 18:45
Fri 2.11.2018
14:15 - 15:45
Mon 5.11.2018
16:15 - 18:45
Fri 9.11.2018
14:15 - 15:45
Mon 12.11.2018
16:15 - 18:45
Fri 16.11.2018
14:15 - 15:45
Mon 19.11.2018
16:15 - 18:45
Fri 23.11.2018
14:15 - 15:45
Mon 26.11.2018
16:15 - 18:45
Fri 30.11.2018
14:15 - 15:45
Mon 3.12.2018
16:15 - 18:45


Via this link you can find materials that describe environmental history of the Baltic Sea on the urban level. The Sea and the Cities project focused on ten major cities in the Baltic Sea Region. Altogether 40 scholars and students participated this international project.


The course can be completed as part of either the bachelor’s or master’s programme, or the 25/35 cr module. Restrictions on participation will be announced in the annual teaching programme.

After completing the course, students will be familiar with classical questions in environmental history, for example, the interaction between climate, the economy, politics and culture. They will be familiar with the long-term developments in Finnish society and understand the interconnections between business, environment and nature. Special emphasis will be on climate change as a historical phenomenon and a challenge for the future.

The course examines the central themes of global environmental history, the development of Finnish society, the connection between agrarian and urban lifestyles, and nature and the economy, as well as the general international and national factors underlying the development of lines of business.

Choose 4 of the following:

· Louekari, Sami: Hyödyn politiikka – Kokemäenjokilaakson ympäristöhistoriaa 1720–1850.

· Behringer, Wolfgang: A Cultural History of Climate.

· Howkins, Alun: The Death of Rural England. The Social History of the Countryside Since 1900.

· Radkau, Joachim: Nature and Power. A Global History of the Environment. Cambridge University Press 2008.

· Burke, Edmund III and Pomeranz, Kenneth: The Environment and World History. California University Press 2009.

On a scale of 0 to 5. All completed studies will be taken into consideration, while self-assessment is promoted.

Suitable for exchange student.

The course is available for all students, both bachelor and master's levels.

Thematic seminar in small groups