We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Environment and World History

Edmund Burke III

Publication Year: 2009

Since around 1500 C.E., humans have shaped the global environment in ways that were previously unimaginable. Bringing together leading environmental historians and world historians, this book offers an overview of global environmental history throughout this remarkable 500-year period. In eleven essays, the contributors examine the connections between environmental change and other major topics of early modern and modern world history: population growth, commercialization, imperialism, industrialization, the fossil fuel revolution, and more. Rather than attributing environmental change largely to European science, technology, and capitalism, the essays illuminate a series of culturally distinctive, yet often parallel developments arising in many parts of the world, leading to intensified exploitation of land and water.

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


pdf iconDownload PDF (38.9 KB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.8 KB)
pp. 2-9


pdf iconDownload PDF (48.3 KB)
pp. vii-viii

List of Figures, Maps, and Tables

pdf iconDownload PDF (54.0 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (60.8 KB)
pp. xi-xiv

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 ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (48.6 KB)
pp. xv-xvi

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

read more

1. Introduction: World History and Environmental History

pdf iconDownload PDF (168.4 KB)
pp. 3-32

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: ...

read more

2. The Big Story: Human History, Energy Regimes, and the Environment

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.0 KB)
pp. 33-53

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. ...

read more

3. Toward a Global System of Property Rights in Land

pdf iconDownload PDF (136.9 KB)
pp. 54-78

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

read more

4. The Transformation of the Middle Eastern Environment, 1500 B.C.E.–2000 C.E.

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.6 KB)
pp. 81-117

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. ...

read more

5. The Transformation of China’s Environment, 1500–2000

pdf iconDownload PDF (340.5 KB)
pp. 118-164

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). ...

read more

6. The Rhine as a World River

pdf iconDownload PDF (145.8 KB)
pp. 165-190

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. ...

read more

7. Continuity and Transformation: Colonial Rice Frontiers and Their Environmental Impact on the Great River Deltas of Mainland Southeast Asia

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.5 KB)
pp. 191-208

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

read more

8. Beyond the Colonial Paradigm: African History and Environmental History in Large-Scale Perspective

pdf iconDownload PDF (114.7 KB)
pp. 211-228

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. ...

read more

9. Environmental Histories of India: Of States, Landscapes, and Ecologies

pdf iconDownload PDF (154.1 KB)
pp. 229-254

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 ...

read more

10. Latin American Environmental History: A Shifting Old/New Field

pdf iconDownload PDF (125.9 KB)
pp. 255-275

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, ...

read more

11. The Predatory Tribute-Taking State: A Framework for Understanding Russian Environmental History

pdf iconDownload PDF (225.1 KB)
pp. 276-316

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 ...

Select Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (130.1 KB)
pp. 317-336

List of Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF (51.1 KB)
pp. 337-338


pdf iconDownload PDF (171.0 KB)
pp. 339-361

Production Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (33.2 KB)
p. 381-381

E-ISBN-13: 9780520943483
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520256873

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: California World History Library