Ame was lean and hard to hunt Indians stored little fish and meat In rough winters Indians could o ten days without foodIn the south the Indians were engaged in a high risk experiment by rowing corn because agriculture is rarely harmless and it often opens the floodgates to numerous troublesome conseuencesIn the north the Indians were lucky that their home was unsuitable for farming They didn t breed like colonists They adapted to their ecosystem and lived like enuine conservatives not looters This was a path with a future until the looters arrived A very detailed description of every way Europeans ruined America Let me preface this by saying that I think William Cronon is the most important ecological voice of our Verdammt verliebt generation When environmental historians are piecing together the canon in one hundred years it willo Muir Leopold Cronon with many sprinkled in between That being said you can tell that this was born out of a doctoral thesis The writing isn t nearly as literary and compelling as it is in Nature s Metropolis That being said I derived a tremendous amount of joy reading this in Sterling Library humbly acknowledging that we all stand on the shoulders of The Way Between the Worlds (The View from the Mirror, giantsChanges in the Land rests on the idea that land in New England well before the industrial revolution became a form of capital for colonists that fundamentally changed the landscape in ways that we underestimate The land capital euation created two central ecological contradictions of the colonial economy the firs How wonderfully enjoyable and informative this compact book turned out to be Though I m sure environmental history doesn t elicit much excitement from most people ineneral I could see how most anyone could enjoy this book at least anyone who has some curiosity as to the chain of events in nature in some fundamental ways or anyone who has an interest in the Indians versus the settlers ways with the land This book starts out describing the Native American Indians relationship with their environment in this case the New England environment which is very interesting in itself because of how cleverly in sync they were with what the land had to offer that is the way they molded their way of life to fit what nature had to offer them as opposed to molding nature to fit their way of life It reminded me of things I d read in the books 1491 by Charles Mann and American Colonies by Alan Taylor the first of which disappointed me due to its confusing and semi hostile delivery and the latter which I appreciated very much This book Inverloch Volume 4 greatly complimented both for me by honing in on some interesting environmental details It wasreat at telling the why and how of what it told you such as the influence of the old world system on the settlers ways of using the land and how deforestation changed soil composition in crucial ways I learned so much from this book I learned what trees were valued for what such as white pines being valued for their height and straightness and their use to build ship masts I learned that black oak worked best for the bottom of ships because it was resistant to some of the sea life that would bore into the hulls of ships I learned how deforestation specifically affected the soil and subseuently water shedding and flooding I learned how livestock too wreaked havoc on the soil In sum I learned what occurred to the New England environment from the beginning of the settlers arrival with reasoning as to why it happened whether that reasoning was The Good and Beautiful God good or bad and I learned how and why the land was used in ways uniue to both the Indians and the Europeans With all the detailsiven in this book one clearly sees how the land was depleted and drastically changed from what it had been and one sees why this happened from both cultural and economic standpoints I have to admit that I occasionally ponder the idea of existing in nature a little like how the Indians did especially in the way that they placed a priority on mobility as opposed to accumulation of things And I uess you could say that our world is in its own way evolving to a style reminiscent of this for example streamlining of oods entertainment through technology the increase in renters versus home owners organic diets etc I used this text and compared to Crosby s Ecological Imperialism This text offers a different approach to environmental hsitroy once that is much homo centric if you will Whereas Crosby discusses humans as being a small part of the bursting dam that is nature Cronon argues that human beings are the chief agents of environmental change I personally side with Crosby on this one and as a result I like Cronon s work less But it is still a solid piece of writing in a field starving for them Read them both if you can and you can add one star to this review if you do that Put another way this book is better in the context of Crosby s A brilliant book that contextualizes and links the environmental history of New England to larger historical forces of colonization the transAtlantic trade and lobal capitalistic economy Cronon persuasively and effectively argues for ecological history as assuming a dynamic and changing relationship between environment and culture or as dialectical that one cannot exist without the other 13 5262015 Upon re reading this book I upped it to 5 stars My appreciation for Cronon s ingenuity has rown tremendously during the intervening years in which I first read it This work has held up incredibly well and I can see its footprint on a multitude of other historians myself included It s a work I should re read every few years to remind myself to and how to thick creatively about sources and to ask the big uestions of the sources I have712008 Excellent academic read but his ideas which were once revolutionary have been so accepted and proliferated into regular histories that I encountered nothing new. Inter disciplinary interpretation of how land and people influence one another With its chilling closing line The people of plenty were a people of waste Cronon's enduring and thought provoking book is ethno ecological history at its best.
Even though I live in San Diego I found this book to be well worth the read Dense but short Changes in the Land The Horse in Celtic Culture gives a close reading to the ecological impact of British colonization in New England As Cronon states in his conclusion this transformation has ramifications far outside New England since the environmental degradation that accompanied early colonization forced settlers farther and farther afieldTwenty years after it was published the scholarship is still what I would consider cutting edge Cronon cuts across disciplines and primary sources to produce a nuanced model of the interrelationship of humans and the environment Cronon s work is just as interesting for his to me anyway novel techniue of writing a history where the personalities of humans take a back seat to the conseunces of their decisionsThe effect is at once radical and main stream Radical in that Cronon strips away traditional justifications for human decisions that reinforce the implicit assumptions that cause those same decisions Main stream in that he manages to stay away from the hyperbole and argument that plague revisions of historyI ve also read Cronon s Nature s Metropolis which is his book about the development of the city of Chicago I would recommend that book as well as this one to anyone interested in the subjects that Cronon covers His scholarship is top notch William Cronon begins Changes in the Land with a discussion of a journal entry Henry David Thoreau made in January of 1855 Thoreau a keen observer of the natural landscape had just finished reading William Wood s New England s Prospect a 17th century tract in which Englishman Wood describes his visit to New England in 1633 Thoreau reflects on the radical transformations that have occurred to the environment of New England since Wood s time Thoreau concludes When I consider the thenobler animals have been exterminated here the cougar panther lynx wolverene wolf bear moose deer the beaver the turkey etc etc I cannot but feel as if I lived in a tamed and as it were emasculated countryIt is hard to believe that Changes in the Land was published thirty years ago It seems as fresh today as it did when I first opened it shortly after its publication It was my first introduction to something called environmental history and while it may not have invented the field it was certainly critical in popularizing it and expanding its boundaries Changes in the Land is not simply about the ecological transformation of the New England landscape It is a history of European and Native American early encounters in New England that puts the natural world at the center It was not until I read this book that I really understood that the contest between Europeans and Native Americans for control of the Americas was not so much a war waged with varied weapons technology but a contest between to conflicting and largely incompatible ways ofetting a living from the land Ecological factors including the introduction of Old World plants animals and pathogens and well as European practices of environmental transformation were critical in determining how this contest played out That might seem obvious today especially in the wake of best selling books like Jared Diamond s Guns Germs and Steel But it was not so obvious when Changes in the Land was first published And for those who have not read it Cronon s Changes in the Land is still a worthwhile counter perspective to the broad sweeping strokes painted by Diamond and others By taking a micro approach and focussing exclusively on one small region Cronon avoids the sweeping declarations that made Diamond s work so popular By placing environment at the center of the story Cronon has influenced a eneration of historians in varied ways One of those ways has been to elevate the role the Euro American farmer played in the transformation of North America over that of the role of the soldier Had changes in the land not blazed a trail works like Creatures of Empire How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America The Great Meadow Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord and my own workJohnny Appleseed and the American Orchard A Cultural History would not have followed But ultimately you shouldn t simply read this book because of its influence You should read it because it is a very ood read To learn about the history of apples in America check out my blog Cronon is a very clear writer His thesis is simple enough to be sustained but nuanced enough to be believable This is a seminal work in environmental history I will allow his preface to demonstrate My purpose throughout is to explain why New England habitats changed as they did during the colonial period It is not my intention to rewrite the human history of the region this is not a history of New England Indians or of indian colonial relations or of the transformation of English colonists from Puritans to YankeesAlthough I attribute much of the changing ecology of New England to the colonists exclusive sense of property and their involvement in a capitalist economy Historian William Cronon was one of a roup of scholars that pioneered a new and improved way of understanding the past Environmental history put the spotlight on many essential issues that were ignored by traditional history and this made the sagas far potent and illuminatingHis book Changes in the Land is an environmental history of colonial New England It documents the clash of two cultures that could not have been different the Indians and the settlers It describes the horrific mortality of imported diseases and two centuries of senseless warfare on the fish forests soils and wildlifeThe prize at the bottom of the box is a mirror The patterns of thinking that the colonists brought to America are essentially our modern insanity in its adolescent form We are the unfortunate inheritors of a dysfunctional. The book that launched environmental history now updated Winner of the Francis Parkman PrizeIn this landmark work of environmental history William Cronon offers an original and profound explanation of the effects European colonists' sense.
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Culture It helps to know this It helps to be able to perceive the laring defects things we have been taught to believe are perfectly normalCronon was the son of a history professor and his father ave him the key for understanding the world He told his son to carry one uestion on his journey through life How did things et to be this way Schoolbook history does a poor job of answering this uestion because it often puts haloes on people who caused much harm folks who faithfully obeyed the expectations of their culture and peersIn Cronon s book alert readers will discover uncomfortable answers to how things A Succession of Bad Days got to be this way We have inherited a dead end way of life In the coming decades big challenges like climate change peak oil and populationrowth seem certain to disrupt industrial civilization as we know itWe can t return to hunting and The Multi-Orgasmic Man gathering anytime soon nor can we remain on our sinking ship To continue our existence on Earth big changes are needed new ideas This presents a fabulous opportunity to learn from our mistakes to live slower lighter and better Cronon s book reveals important lessons what worked well and what failedIn the 5000 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock Europe had been transformed from a thriving wilderness to a scarred and battered land thanks to soil mining forest mining fish mining mineral mining and a lot of crazy thinking During the same 5000 years the Indians of northern New England kept their numbers low and didn t beat the stuffing out of their ecosystem because it was a sacred place and they were well adapted to living in itIn southern New England the Indians regularly cleared the land by setting fires This created open park like forests which provided habitat attractive toame Burning altered the ecosystem One early settler noted a hill near Boston from which you could observe thousands of treeless acres below This was not a pristine ecosystem in its climax stateIn the north the Indians did not clear the land with fire The trees in that region were too flammable so the forests were allowed to live wild and free Indians travelled by canoeIn the south where the climate was warmer Indians practiced slash and burn agriculture Forests were killed and fields were planted with corn beans and suash Corn is a highly productive crop that is also a heavy feeder on soil nutrients After five to ten seasons the soil was depleted and the field was abandoned The Indians had no livestock to provide manure for fertilizer Few used fish for fertilizer because they had no carts for hauling themThis digging stick agriculture was soil mining unsustainable Corn had arrived in New England just a few hundred years earlier too recently to produce civilization and meltdown as it did in Cahokia on the Mississippi Corn spurred population rowth which increased the toll on forests and soils Other writers have noted that corn country was not a land of love peace and happiness Most Irouois villages were surrounded by defensive palisades because people led to stress and conflictThe colonists imported an agricultural system that rocked the ecological boat much harder Their plows loosened the soil deeply encouraging erosion Their pastures were often overgrazed which encouraged erosion They aggressively cut forests to expand pastures cropland and settlements and this encouraged erosion Harbors were clogged with eroded soil Their cattle roamed the countryside so little manure was collected for fertilizer They planted corn alone so the soil did not benefit from the nitrogen that beans could add They burned trees to make ash for fertilizerCronon devotes much attention to the eco blunders of the settlers A key factor here is that their objective was not simple subsistence They had reat interest in accumulating wealth and status and this was achieved by taking commodities to market like lumber and livestock The land they cleared the cattle they could raise It was impossible to be too richThis silly hunger for status has a long history of inspiring idiotically reckless behavior When a colonist The Great Passage gazed on the land his mind focused on the commodities the stuff he could loot and sell He noticed the enormous numbers of fish the millions of waterfowl the unbelievable oldrowth forests the furbearing animals all the things that his kinfolk in Europe had nearly wiped outIndians hunted for dinner not for the market They did not own the deer elk and moose that they hunted so nobody freaked out if a wolf ate one These wild animals had coevolved with wolves so a balance was maintained Colonists introduced domesticated animals that had not coevolved with wolves The slow dimwitted livestock were sitting ducks for predators which boosted wolf populations which led infuriated settlers to launch wolf extermination programsIndians were not chained to private property When their fields wore out they cleared new fields Colonists owned a fixed piece of land which narrowed their options In the winter months Indians moved to hunting camps selecting sites with adeuate firewood available They had nice fires and stayed warm while the colonists shivered in their fixed villages where firewood was scarceColonists suffered from an insatiable hunger for wealth and status which drove them to spend their lives working like madmen Instead of belongings the Indians had a leisurely way of life and this was their source of wealth They thought that the workaholic settlers were out of their minds Indians were mobile so hoarding stuff made no sense By having few wants the path to abundance was a short one Even the least industrious wanted nothingLiebig s Law says populations are not limited by the total annual resources available but by the minimum amount available at the scarcest time of the year So despite the seasonal fish runs and bird migrations life was not easy in February and March when the Of property and their pursuit of capitalism had upon the ecosystems of New England Reissued here with an updated afterword by the author and a new preface by the distinguished colonialist John Demos Changes in the Land provides a brilliant.
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William Bill Cronon is a noted environmental historian and the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison He was president of the American Historical Association AHA in 2012