Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

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© 2022 Lee Beckwith


At a time when the natural world and global climate are experiencing extreme changes at unprecedented speeds, understanding these environmental changes over time is more important than ever. With advances in remote sensing technology, large amounts of information about the natural world are becoming more accessible than ever before; however, satellite-collected data are only available from 1984 onwards. To understand how land use has changed on longer timescales, researchers have turned towards archival maps as a data source. Archival maps are a rich source of environmental information; however, they are often saturated with complicated colonial histories. Maps, more so than other historical materials, can hide behind the veneer of objectivity and thus escape important interrogation. As methods that utilize archival maps become more popular, the need to critically analyze the historical and social contexts of the maps becomes even stronger. This thesis argues for a rethinking of historical environmental data through a case study of U.S. Military Maps of Korea from 1945-1954. By providing appropriate historical and social context, three maps of Seoul are deconstructed, thereby illuminating their fallibility as objective environmental sources. This case study ultimately encourages scholars to engage with environmental history more critically and think beyond the analogues dictated by current technology.