The Environment and World History
Publication Year: 2009
The wide range of regional studies—including some in Russia, China, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Southern Africa, and Western Europe—together with the book's broader thematic essays makes The Environment and World History ideal for courses that seek to incorporate the environment and environmental change more fully into a truly integrative understanding of world history.
CONTRIBUTORS: Michael Adas, William Beinart, Edmund Burke III, Mark Cioc, Kenneth Pomeranz, Mahesh Rangarajan, John F. Richards, Lise Sedrez, Douglas R. Weiner
Published by: University of California Press
Series: California World History Library
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
Environmental history has the potential to transform our understanding of the human past. Like the perspective of gender history, an environmental perspective is not readily contained within existing subdisciplines of history. By focusing on the impact of human activity on the biosphere, the environmental perspective not only opens new topics for investigation ...
The idea for this volume derived from Edmund Burke ’s 1998 National Endowment for the Humanities Institute for College Teachers, “The Environment and World History.” The lively questions and comments raised by the participants and presenters in the institute encouraged us to proceed with publication of some of the presentations. ...
Part One: Overview
1. Introduction: World History and Environmental History
This book’s preface argues that a closer integration of world history and environmental history is “an urgent intellectual project.” This idea is hardly new, but scholars still have a long way to go in implementing it. In certain obvious ways, the perspectives of world history and environmental history seem to fit together readily: ...
2. The Big Story: Human History, Energy Regimes, and the Environment
Most histories depict the present as the endpoint of an ascending trajectory that links the agricultural revolution, classical Greece, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and modern times. This may make for good teleology, but is such a graph plausible? There are several reasons to think not. ...
3. Toward a Global System of Property Rights in Land
Since the late fifteenth century, the global landscape has been transformed by human action.1 Land, formerly abundant in most parts of the world, has become relatively scarce and valuable as human numbers have increased twelvefold (from 0.5 to 6 billion people). ...
Part Two: Rivers, Regions, and Developmentalism
4. The Transformation of the Middle Eastern Environment, 1500 B.C.E.–2000 C.E.
The environment is rarely mentioned in most histories of the modern Middle East. It tends to hover on the margins of discussions of other, presumably more important topics, such as the onset of imperialism and nationalism and the region’s political and economic transformation. ...
5. The Transformation of China’s Environment, 1500–2000
China has often served as the supposed antithesis of Western environmental trends. Sometimes it has been praised (for example, for careful, loving attention to the soil or for Maoist indifference to materialism); at other times it has been damned (for improvident pronatalism or for a Stalinist obsession with heavy industry). ...
6. The Rhine as a World River
The Rhine is one of the world’s great commercial streams, second only to the Mississippi in the tonnage of freight it carries annually. It drains eight European states along its northwesterly path from the Alps to the North Sea: Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. ...
7. Continuity and Transformation: Colonial Rice Frontiers and Their Environmental Impact on the Great River Deltas of Mainland Southeast Asia
For Americans at least, the term frontier conjurers up images of the Great Plains or the West, of ranchers and sod-house farmers, cavalrymen, and Native American resistance to the inexorable advance of Euroamerican settlement. But the United States frontier was only one example of a larger type of settler expansion into areas from Australia and Argentina to Russia and Canada ...
Part Three: Landscapes, Conquests, Communities, and the Politics of Knowledge
8. Beyond the Colonial Paradigm: African History and Environmental History in Large-Scale Perspective
Human beings are, before anything else, biological entities. Their interactions with other species and with the natural environment, and their appropriation of the natural resources without which life is impossible, must be central elements in human history. Significant sorties have been made into this terrain in a variety of historical writing, and perhaps more in other disciplines. ...
9. Environmental Histories of India: Of States, Landscapes, and Ecologies
Environmental change in colonial India was once largely outside the purview of historical scholarship but is now a flourishing subject. The sheer size of the population of the country, now accounting for one in six people on the planet, and its centrality to European projects of global domination since the late eighteenth century make it inevitable ...
10. Latin American Environmental History: A Shifting Old/New Field
In 1902 the Brazilian author Euclides da Cunha published a riveting work about a regional rebellion against the newly established republic and its subsequent suppression by the federal government.1 A masterpiece on identity, race, and nation building, it contained, to the despair of the following generations of high school students, ...
11. The Predatory Tribute-Taking State: A Framework for Understanding Russian Environmental History
Without embracing yet another rigid determinism, it may be proposed that certain forms of political economy leave their own footprints on the physical landscape and bequeath identifiable environmental legacies. At least one scholar has even attempted an ecological “archaeology of colonialism.”1 ...
List of Contributors