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Engineering Nature

Water, Development, and the Global Spread of American Environmental Expertise

Jessica B. Teisch

Publication Year: 2011

Focusing on globalization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Jessica Teisch examines the processes by which American water and mining engineers who rose to prominence during and after the California Gold Rush of 1849 exported the United States' growing technical and environmental knowledge and associated social and political institutions. In the frontiers of Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, and Palestine--semiarid regions that shared a need for water to support growing populations and economies--California water engineers applied their expertise in irrigation and mining projects on behalf of foreign governments and business interests.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-x

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p. xi

I first encountered what was then the burgeoning field of environmental history in 1993, while enrolled as an undergraduate in a course taught by Caroline Karp at Brown University. Engineering Nature is, in some ways, an outgrowth of the questions about the relationship between people and the...

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INTRODUCTION: California Welcomes the World

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pp. 1-16

All of the great world’s fairs of history—London, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Paris—gazed back in time and recorded the progress made by important events, discoveries, and inventions. They also looked forward. The first international fair in 1851 portrayed a world dominated by the new...

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CHAPTER ONE: Lessons of Valuable Experience: What California Learned from India

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pp. 17-38

The American government chartered or subsidized many of the nation’s early enterprises, including interstate railroads. Yet it showed little support for irrigation development in California, even when agriculture began to surpass mining as the state’s predominant industry in the 1870s. Individuals...

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CHAPTER TWO: A Great Mission for the Race: Lessons and Experiences from California

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pp. 39-66

In his position as state engineer, William Hammond Hall embodied a growing reliance on technology and rhetoric shared by many Californians. Indeed, California engineers’ models of irrigation shared a host of traits, not all of them technical. Many late-nineteenth-century engineers and policy...

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CHAPTER THREE: The California Model and the Australian Awakening

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pp. 67-96

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, California engineers experimented with different models of irrigation. Their models attempted to deal with issues such as the relative involvement of the government, private capitalists, interest groups, and the market in economic growth. Yet...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Home Is Not So Very Far Away: Civilizing the South African Frontier

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pp. 97-132

In December 1895, Cecil Rhodes planned a raid against South Africa’s Transvaal government. The plot featured wealthy British mine owners battling alleged injustices by the Transvaal government, a brush with death sentences issued by London’s High Court, and public officials’ falls from grace...

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CHAPTER FIVE: Nothing but Commercial Feudalism: California’s Hawaiian Empire

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pp. 133-160

In 1921, Elwood Mead, at the time teaching at the University of California and chairing the state’s Land Settlement Board, received a call from George P. Cooke, secretary of the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC). Created by an act of the U.S. Congress, the HHC planned to resettle native...

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CHAPTER SIX: Palestine’s Peculiar Social Experiments

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pp. 161-178

In 1923, Elwood Mead left his teaching position at the University of California at Berkeley and embarked on a trip around the world. Since his work in Australia, foreign government officials had solicited his advice on irrigation and settlement policy. After visiting Hawaii and recommending that...

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CONCLUSION: The Common World Destiny

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pp. 179-188

The dream of progress shared by Elwood Mead and other California engineers had deep roots in the nineteenth century and persisted into the first half of the twentieth. This was, after all, the time that Frederick H. Newell dubbed the Age of the Engineer, the era when the idea of universal progress...


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pp. 189-216


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pp. 217-240


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pp. 241-260

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603513
E-ISBN-10: 1469603519
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834435
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834432

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 703233903
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Engineering Nature

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Subject Headings

  • Water resources development -- United States -- History.
  • Mining engineering -- United States -- History.
  • Water resources development -- History.
  • Mining engineering -- History.
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