Climate Change and the Retreat of the Atlantic:The Cameralist Context of Pehr Kalm’s Voyage to North America, 1748–51
Pehr Kalm’s voyage to America in 1748–51 produced a treasure trove of observations about climate, soil, and other matters of natural history. A close reading of Kalm’s travel journal, published writings, and correspondence reveals a deep ambivalence about the operation of the natural order in the New World. Kalm’s fieldwork and interviews with settlers charted processes of species extirpation, degeneration, soil exhaustion, and climate change. This interest in the environmental impact of settlement reflected in great part Kalm’s commitment to cameralist science. Kalm’s American voyage was a direct extension of his earlier biosprospecting tours in the Old World. He and his Swedish contemporaries hoped to transform the natural order of the nation through schemes of acclimatization and internal colonization. Such ambitions were in turn framed within a universal history of climate change. Kalm’s experience in the New World confirmed the global scope of these processes, while stressing the risk and uncertainty associated with projects of climate improvement. In this sense, Kalm’s voyage offers an important yet neglected entry point into the history of climate science.
The old man was certain that the climate was changing for the worse. In his childhood, it had been possible to walk across the ice from Philadelphia to Burlington in March and then row across the open waters a few days later. The seasons had been more sharply delineated then; cold winters were followed swiftly by hot summers. Now, the weather had grown more moderate but also more fickle.
Pehr Kalm heard many such stories of strange weather during his tour of the American colonies from 1748 to 1751. The Swedish-Finnish naturalist had come to the New World to collect knowledge about useful plants and animals at the behest of his mentor Carolus Linnaeus. For Kalm and Linnaeus, such information was intrinsically historical; to know the land was to understand how colonization had altered the natural world over time. Yet in the absence of official records, the past of nature could be accessed only through popular memory and oral tradition. This was climate knowledge from below. While in the American colonies, Kalm was particularly keen to talk to elderly settlers whose memory reached back to the last decades of the seventeenth century. These interviews also contained a patriotic bias; Kalm tended to trust the testimony of settlers of Swedish extraction more than that of those of other nationalities. Forty or fifty years earlier, Kalm’s informants reported, the winters had [End Page 99] been shorter and the summers hotter. Now spring often came later, and the weather on the whole was less constant, prone to sudden changes from cold to heat. Such variability bred fevers and crop failures. The Swedish-American clergyman Abraham Lidenius in Racoon, New Jersey, reckoned that the primeval forests of America had sheltered the land from the northern wind in the past. By cutting down so many trees, colonists risked a reversal of fortune, making winters colder than before. This adverse trend seemed to contradict one of the fundamental assumptions of Enlightenment climatology: that human influence had a positive effect on weather patterns. Colonization, population, and European agriculture were supposed to ameliorate the climate, not make it less stable.1
Something seemed to have gone very wrong with the project of New World settlement. Kalm recorded a host of other troubling trends in his travel journal. The prodigious abundance of animals and plants that had met the first colonists was now greatly diminished. Some species were entirely extirpated from the region; others had dwindled visibly. The elders also complained of declining soil fertility and overgrazing. The lush grasses that had fed earlier generations of livestock were now increasingly scarce. Both cattle and people seemed to be degenerating in size and health. While other early travelers praised the astonishing natural abundance and economic potential of the New World, Kalm suggested that the American cornucopia was faltering.2
A close reading of Kalm’s travel journal, published writings, and correspondence reveals numerous observations about species extirpation, degeneration, soil exhaustion, and the deterioration of the climate. Such environmental anxieties, although quite rare in the Enlightenment, were not entirely without parallel. Naturalists such as Pierre Poivre, Anders [End Page 100] Sparrman, and Alexander von Humboldt drew attention in their travelogues to the ecological strains caused by economic development and colonial exploitation. The translator of Kalm’s travel journal into English was no less than Johann Reinhold Forster, the companion of Captain James Cook on his second circumnavigation and an acute observer of the disastrous environmental and social effects of European colonialism in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.3
Some scholars have claimed Kalm as a precocious prophet of environmental degradation, an Enlightenment precursor of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir.4 But such readings run the risk of obscuring the specific historical context of Kalm’s thought and actions. Why was the Swedish naturalist so anxious to collect evidence of environmental change in the first place? Kalm’s interest in the wider ecological impact of settlement reflected in great part his commitment to the cameralist science of the Swedish Enlightenment. His American voyage was a direct extension of his earlier tours of the Swedish provinces, as well as of his experiences in Russia, Norway, and England. Kalm and his allies hoped to transform the environment of Sweden through projects of acclimatization and internal colonization. Their providential patriotism attributed sacred and economic value even to obscure and seemingly useless life forms. God had filled Creation with hidden riches, visible to the discerning eye of the naturalist. None of these gifts were to be wasted. The interest of Swedish naturalists in the problems of climate amelioration and oceanic retreat (vattenminskning) also accustomed them to the notion of large-scale environmental changes. The settlement of the New World served for Kalm as both an inspiration and a warning. He marveled at the dramatic changes wrought by colonization but also recoiled at what he perceived as shoddy husbandry and lax government. [End Page 101]
After his return to Sweden, Kalm transformed the field notes of his travel journal (Resejournal) into a formal account at the request of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This edited version of the text was published in three volumes in Swedish (1753–61), then German (1754–64), English (1770–71), and Dutch (1772). The English version—Travels Into North America—comprehends only about a third of the original text of the Resejournal. It leaves out the greater part of the European leg of the journey and excludes many of the American observations as well. Earlier scholarship on Kalm has not drawn on the original text of the Resejournal; examining the full work in its original language places Kalm’s observations in their broader context.5
The political and intellectual origins of Kalm’s journey are relevant not just to scholars of the Swedish Enlightenment but also to historians of colonial America. The versions of Kalm’s travels published in English have been mined frequently for insights into the operation of colonial agriculture, yet seldom with a full understanding of the peculiar ideological orientation of Kalm’s natural history. Some agrarian and environmental historians have taken his critique of American husbandry at face value, while others have challenged his assumption that colonial farming was ignorant and myopic. But acknowledging the cameralist lens of Kalm’s fieldwork is essential to fully understanding it. His meticulous travel journal presents a treasure trove of observations for colonial historians that must be placed in their proper ideological context. Such a measured approach explains why Kalm made invidious comparisons between the British and French colonies. Only in Quebec did he find the kind of political and social order that he believed was best suited to facilitate agricultural improvement: enlightened administrators and seigneurial elites willing to submit to naturalist expertise.6 [End Page 102]
Environmental historians will find in Kalm not just a certain kind of conservationist sensibility but also a precocious understanding of large-scale climate change. He was one of the first Enlightenment savants to suspect that the climate could change on a global scale. Moreover, he seems to have conceived of climate change as inherently complex and reversible, the product of anthropogenic as well as nonhuman forces. Drawing on oral testimony, written sources, and a range of environmental evidence, he hypothesized that some types of climate grew more moderate over time, while others seemed to deteriorate and became subject to more extreme forms of weather. In this sense, Kalm’s encounter with the New World serves as an important yet neglected entry point into the history of climate science.7
The natural history of Pehr Kalm was the fruit of imperial decline and military defeat. Kalm was the son of refugees who had fled Ostrobothnia when Russian troops overran Finland during the Great Northern War, returning only after the war’s conclusion. The Peace of Nystad in 1721 put an end to Swedish ambitions for Great Power status in Europe. But this decline in stature in turn paved the way for internal reform. The regime turned from the military absolutism of Charles XII to the constitutional monarchy of King Frederick I and Queen Ulrika Eleonora. For Swedish savants, a watershed came with the establishment of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1739. Among the founders were the naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné), the engineer Mårten Triewald, and the agricultural improver Baron Sten Carl Bielke. The aim of the organization was to secure national prosperity through scientific progress and internal improvement of both land and labor. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences provided an institutional locus for the collection of useful information of every kind. In a parallel movement, Linnaeus turned the botanical garden at Uppsala into a hub for acclimatization efforts. He gathered around him a circle of students and other contacts who assisted him in projects of ecological exchange.8
These efforts marked the birth of a Swedish version of cameralism (Kameralwissenschaften). This eighteenth-century science proffered advice about good government to princes and their administrators and was first recognized as an academic discipline when Frederick Wilhelm established [End Page 103] a chair in the subject at the University of Halle in 1727. In this narrow technical sense, cameralism comprised a specific body of academic courses and manuals proposing means to improve the revenue base of a state. But there is a broader sense of the term invoked by Lisbet Koerner, who defined it as a strategy employed by landlocked states without transoceanic empires to harness natural knowledge for commercial ends.9
On Europe’s peripheries, statesmen and savants hoped to expand their nations’ economies through internal colonization and ecological diversification rather than overseas conquest. In Prussia, three hundred thousand people were resettled on soils actively reclaimed from the marshes of the Oder and other rivers in the hinterland through extensive drainage projects. Population shifts went hand in hand with the transfer of valuable plants and animals, including the introduction of mulberry trees in Saxony and Angora goats in Sweden.10
Such a strategy of ecological exchange was greatly facilitated by the new method of natural history pioneered by Linnaeus. His binomial nomenclature and sexual classification scheme allowed naturalists to construct from local inventories of flora a universal taxonomic science. To this end, Linnaeus undertook a series of internal voyages of exploration in the Swedish provinces. With the aid of the Swedish state and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, he also trained and equipped more than a dozen students to scour the ecosystems of the Old and New Worlds for valuable plants and seeds that could be transferred back to Sweden. The aim was to habituate cash crops such as rhubarb, tea, and nutmeg to the northern climate in order to make Sweden self-sufficient and wealthy without an overseas empire.11
Pehr Kalm entered the world of cameralism through his studies in natural history at the University of Åbo. It was here that he became acquainted with Bielke, who served as associate judge (hovrättsassessor) in the High Court of Åbo. In 1741, Kalm moved to Uppsala to study with Linnaeus and others. Soon, Kalm began spending time at Bielke’s estate, Lövsta, just a few miles outside town. Bielke took a strong interest in experimental agriculture, especially the introduction of sown grasses, in the hope that such improvements would increase manure production and [End Page 104] soil productivity. When Bielke was away, Kalm oversaw the farm, assisting his mentor in reclaiming peat mosses and planting new crops.12
A survey map of Lövsta from 1748 shows a patchwork of meadows, orchards, hemp fields, and acclimatization gardens. Linnaeus had made an inventory a year earlier that lists a number of exotic plants, including several species of Russian grasses. A series of letters between Kalm and Bielke that survive from this period demonstrates a remarkable degree of affection and close collaboration between the two men. Their project was underwritten by a cameralist theology of hidden natural riches. God had in his mercy bestowed upon the Swedish nation a wealth of useful plants that could make it self-sufficient in vital provisions once they were discovered by the gaze of the Linnaean expert.13
In this spirit Kalm went in 1742 to Bohuslän, on the west coast of Sweden, in search of little-known fodder grasses. Two years later, he and Bielke traveled together to Russia to collect seeds and plants. These bioprospecting journeys instilled in Kalm strong prejudices about the slovenly practices and shoddy husbandry of local farmers. Rustics were prone to narrow and backward agricultural customs, sowing too few crops and neglecting proper methods of drainage. For the patriotic Kalm, the discovery of new fodder grasses and the reclamation of soil promised to regenerate the Swedish nation in an age of imperial decline.14
Linnaeus shared Kalm’s fascination with fodder grasses. When Kalm arrived in Uppsala, he had already mastered the new method of botanical classification pioneered by Linnaeus. In the next few years, Kalm was tasked with helping him assemble a list of indigenous and exotic grasses appropriate for livestock. Some of Linnaeus’s enterprising students followed the cattle around pastures and woodland to record exactly what sort of plants they preferred. These “interviews” culminated in the 1749 pamphlet Pan Svecicus, which listed more than eight hundred species of useful grasses. “I have learned,” Kalm told Bielke, “that one must not despise any grass, no matter how poorly it grows in some spots.” Appearances could deceive. Even a scarce and struggling plant might prove a valuable addition to a hay meadow.15 [End Page 105]
Such providential and hermetic utilitarianism was not restricted to fodder grasses. Linnaeus hesitated between two conflicting priorities in his economic vision: a moral-medical ideal of self-sufficiency and a commercial-botanical path to greatness. The first approach celebrated the abundant natural riches of the fatherland. Most of Linnaeus’s journeys were confined to the Swedish provinces, beginning in Lapland in 1732 and concluding in the southernmost region of Skåne in 1749. The aim of these resource inventories was to demonstrate just how rich in internal resources the nation actually was. Linnaeus hoped that indigenous flora might yield import substitutes for patriotic consumers. His Flora lapponica of 1737 painted the Sami people as a race of noble savages. Their self-sufficiency, natural knowledge, and simple diet offered a moral example for Swedish people to follow.16
Yet this current of primitivism in Linnaeus’s thought competed with a more cosmopolitan understanding of wealth and exchange. The botanist groomed a generation of apostles (Lärljungar) to act as his proxies in foreign lands. Their task was to collect and bring home to Sweden cash crops and other useful flora to diversify the economy. Among them were exotic trees such as larch, sugar maple, and mulberry, along with plants intended for the more chimerical project of acclimatization, such as nutmeg, saffron, and tea. Linnaean botany here served as a surrogate for imperial conquest: instead of investing in precarious colonial ventures in the hope of producing cash crops, the naturalist could identify, transplant, and acclimatize these plants to enrich the Swedish economy at home.17
Soon after meeting Linnaeus, Kalm let him know that he was eager to follow in the footsteps of the other disciples and travel abroad on a bioprospecting mission. At first, he and Bielke favored Iceland as a destination, but Linnaeus did not think its flora was sufficiently distinct from that of Lapland to merit a trip. They also discussed Greenland, the Cape of Good Hope, the Silk Road to China, and the Holy Land, but in the end they settled on the voyage to the New World. Linnaeus composed a memorandum to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences explaining that the higher latitudes of North America were likely to contain useful plants capable of acclimatizing to Swedish conditions. Kalm’s itinerary would begin in the Swedish settlements near Philadelphia and then move north to Hudson Bay, located along the same latitude as northern Sweden and Finland. Linnaeus made a list of seeds, nuts, and plants to be gathered, including wild rice, walnuts, sassafras, and mulberry. Kalm had high hopes of succeeding in introducing sugar maples, American cedars, and [End Page 106] hemp to Sweden too. He knew that the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) from Canada had been acclimatized in Sweden and was very gratified to learn from the elderly Uppsala priest Olof Celsius that Canadian plants had been thriving in his garden for fifty years. Indeed, the priest swore that they now grew wild and had become so invasive that he had to cull them like weeds to make room for native plants.18
Sten Carl Bielke and Carolus Linnaeus were not Pehr Kalm’s only patrons at Uppsala. During his studies with Anders Celsius, a professor of astronomy (and the nephew of Olof Celsius), Kalm became an early adherent of a controversial theory about the retreat of the ocean. Spurred by observations made by the chemist Urban Hiärne a generation earlier, Celsius set out to explore a curious geological anomaly: why did the Scandinavian land mass seem to be rising out of the Baltic Sea? A century later, this movement was explained as a delayed effect of the Ice Age. When the enormous weight of the ice sheet was removed during the interglacial period, the depression of the land that had been caused by the ice was reversed and the land mass began to rise upward again. But for Celsius and Kalm, this puzzling phenomenon was best explained as a consequence of diminishing water, vattenminskning.19
Celsius used familiar landmarks along the Baltic coast to estimate the precise rate of retreat. He also relied on observations provided by Kalm from Bohuslän for his argument. Celsius concluded in his pioneering 1743 essay to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that the sea seemed to recede by forty to fifty Swedish inches (verktum, equal to 2.474 centimeters) per century. This startling measurement suggested an unexpected past and future for Sweden. Celsius predicted that the port towns in the north of Sweden would one day have to be moved to reach the retreating Baltic Sea. Stranger still, he calculated that the Baltic would be entirely dry some three thousand or four thousand years hence. However, Celsius ventured no decisive judgment in his essay about the causes of this natural process but was content merely to offer some brief speculations. Was the Baltic perhaps decreasing in size because water gradually soaked into the seabed? Or could it be that the missing water had been absorbed into peat mosses on land?20 [End Page 107]
Controversy quickly erupted over the idea of vattenminskning and continued unabated after Celsius’s death in 1745. Using Celsius’s calculations, Olof von Dahlin provoked an outcry when he began his 1747 history of Sweden by suggesting that the nation had once been almost entirely covered by water. The physician Nils Gissler pointed out that Celsius’s steady rate of retreat implied a history of the earth far longer than the conventional six thousand years of Christian history. The ecclesiastical estate in the Swedish Riksdag (Diet) proclaimed the theory contrary to the teachings of scripture.21
But Celsius did not lack prominent defenders, including Linnaeus and Kalm. Shortly after Celsius’s essay was published, Linnaeus gave a public lecture entitled Oratio de telluris habitabilis incremento, which placed the theory of vattenminskning in a theological and biogeographical framework. Linnaeus’s aim was to explain how all the species of plants and animals had diffused from the Garden of Eden to different corners of the world. Inspired by Celsius, he proposed that the planet had once been covered by water, with the Garden of Eden forming a single mountain on an island near the equator. As the waters receded, plants and animals diffused via migration or other means to the new lands emerging out of the sea. The altitude differences within his mountainous paradise explained how subarctic plants could have existed in the Garden of Eden.22
Linnaeus also seems to have favored this model of biogeography because it permitted a great degree of mobility in nature. God had not fixed definite habitats for his animals and plants but permitted them to migrate of their own accord. This mechanism provided theological justification for the far-reaching trials in acclimatization and ecological exchange of economic botany. More disconcertingly, Linnaeus’s conception of vattenminskning incorporated an element of adverse climate change. As the water receded, the flow of streams and rivers also diminished. The large rivers of Xanthos and Simos, eulogized by the classical poets, had been reduced in modern times to mere trickles of water where [End Page 108] scarcely any fish could live. Linnaeus’s oration suggested that vattenminskning was a force of desiccation that could render fertile lands barren over time. The waters of the world seemed to be leaking away.23
When Kalm toured the west coast of Sweden in the summer of 1742, he observed the accumulation of seashells at higher altitudes, hinting at higher historical coastlines. He also collected oral testimony from local fishermen about the water levels of rivers and ocean in the past and present. He attended Linnaeus’s oration on Eden as an island but found the notion difficult to swallow, calling it a “lusus ingenii” (game of wit) rather than a serious explanation. As plans for the American voyage took shape, Kalm realized that the mission offered him an opportunity to test the validity of Celsius’s idea on a large scale. If he could show that the ocean was retreating in America as well as Europe, he might extend Celsius’s model of the Baltic Sea to encompass the great expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.24
The journey began in early October 1747.25 The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences sanctioned the venture, with funding from the Riksdag (Sweden’s national legislature) and the universities. Sten Carl Bielke’s trusted manservant, Lars Jungström, accompanied Pehr Kalm. Jungström’s useful skills comprised not just horticultural aptitude but also a steady hand with the musket. To facilitate his fieldwork, Kalm traveled with a cache of books and scientific instruments. Among these texts were Pliny’s Historia naturalis (C.E. 77–79), Philip Miller’s Gardener’s Dictionary (1734), and Carolus Linnaeus’s Systema naturae (1748) and Flora Suecica (1745). His instruments included an astrolabe, a barometer, binoculars, and thermometers. Kalm emulated Linnaeus in keeping a travel journal during most of the journey. Here, he recorded weather observations, inventories of flora, conversations with local people, and many other things. Over the course of two and a half years of travel in America, the journal grew to a prodigious size. The published version of the full Resejournal comprehends four lengthy volumes.26 [End Page 109]
It is a polyglot text, written in Swedish and Latin, with additional sections from French and English sources. Much of it seems to have been composed in the field, with Kalm adding entries more or less at the time activities and discoveries happened. Sometimes the text even registers dramatic events as they unfolded in real time, like a storm at sea or a trek in the wilderness. Other entries were revised and edited after the fact, with cross-references to earlier or later parts of the journals. As with all of Linnaeus’s apostles, taxonomic work was an overriding concern for Kalm. Yet his lengthy plant descriptions and observations about local landscapes went far beyond the abbreviated and economic style of Linnaeus’s classification system. Kalm took great pride in his meticulous and voluminous form of record keeping, frequently bolstered by testimonies from local informants. Indeed, he applied the same comprehensive spirit to his account of customs, diet, architecture, technology, and landscapes. The result was a remarkably detailed depiction of everyday life in colonial America. Like many other enlightened savants, Kalm took pains to appear impartial to popular prejudice and impervious to tales of wonder. In his description of Niagara Falls, published in the American botanist John Bartram’s 1751 natural history, Kalm explained that he was not fond “of the Marvellous” and that he preferred to “see things just as they are, and so relate them.”27
The journey had an inauspicious beginning. After waiting several days in Gothenburg for good sailing weather, Kalm’s ship was caught in a fierce storm off the coast of Norway. The cargo of six cannons came untethered and threatened to capsize the vessel, but the captain and crew managed to repair to the port of Grömstad (present-day Grimstad), where Kalm was stranded until the end of January 1748. How he spent this interlude in Norway is quite revealing. While awaiting the next leg of the journey, Kalm took the opportunity to explore the country, engaging in fieldwork that anticipated many of his concerns in the New World. He interviewed local fishermen and pilots about the natural history of the land, searching for changes in water levels and climate. An old man in Grömstad testified that the winters in his childhood had been far colder than at present. The same informant also reported that storms had been of shorter duration then, lasting a day and night at the most, while now [End Page 110] they would rage for a week or more. Another local confirmed that, over the last half century, the water levels in the local river had fallen to the point where it was no longer navigable except at high tide. Kalm’s host in Grömstad, the captain Jöns Gregerson, observed that the outlets of various rivers and bays had grown shallower over his lifetime, but he blamed mud, sawdust, and silt rather than a change in the sea level. Kalm settled the matter to his satisfaction when he discovered several beds of shells above the current sea level. He speculated that perhaps locals failed to notice the retreat of the ocean because of the heavy influence of the tide; after all, sea levels were always changing.28
During his stay in Grömstad, Kalm encountered much evidence of depletion and degradation, particularly patterns of deforestation and the diminution of local fish stock. Here, locals were far more forthcoming. There seemed to be a near-universal consensus that the fishermen’s catch had decreased in the last fifty years. Some thought the cod was worst hit, others mackerel. Some informants suggested that the extirpation of lobster caused by high Dutch demand was to blame, since lobster spawn were eaten by many fish species, but more generally the decrease in stock seemed to be linked to the growth in the human population. There were three, four, or even five times as many fishermen in the region as there had been in the past generation.29
Another pressing problem was the decimation of the oak forests along the coast. The previous winter, fourteen ships had been built in the immediate vicinity of Grömstad. The shipwrights were not supposed to sell their vessels to foreigners, but there was still a steady stream of timber going abroad illegally, above all to the Dutch Republic. Several elderly residents told Kalm that the oak stands had grown close to the water in their childhoods but that everything had been clear-cut since then. Kalm observed that prices had risen across Norway as a consequence of deforestation. When the most easily accessible woodland vanished, the cost of transporting timber mounted and farmers responded by raising prices on the produce they brought to market. Kalm saw only one inadvertent benefit of increasing timber scarcity. Because of the high price paid by foreigners for Norwegian timber, local farmers had been distracted from good practice in agriculture. When the woods were abundant, it was more tempting to cut trees than “to wait for the grain to ripen.” But with the forests gone, local husbandry could improve. Such adjustments did not impress Kalm very much, as they were merely unintended consequences of bad policy. What would the landscape of Norway look like in the year [End Page 111] 1800? Surely the next generation would bitterly regret their parents’ “gamble with the woods.” A proper long-term view would balance Norway’s diverse priorities rather than favoring one at the expense of another.30
England offered a pleasant contrast to Norway. This was a prosperous, long-improved country dedicated to careful husbandry. Kalm arrived there in early February 1748. His first impressions were of the stupendous traffic on the River Thames, an unceasing array of ships arriving and departing the metropolis of London. This immense commerce rested on solid foundations. Agriculture here was not a secondary and accidental enterprise, but a mature and deliberate practice with deep roots in history and experience. Kalm delighted in the elegant rural landscape, an “endless garden,” where the common farmhouses were often as grand as Swedish manors. He took special note of the abundant Sainfoin (Onobrychis), a fodder plant introduced from the Continent thirty years earlier to increase soil fertility. Kalm had long admired the English agriculturists and sought out the improver William Ellis in Hertfordshire to discuss with him best practices in husbandry. Ellis had acquired sufficient fame to supplement his farming income with work as an agent for seeds and a writer of husbandry manuals.31
However, Kalm’s appraisal of England was not without some reservations. For one thing, the kingdom benefited greatly from its advantageous geographic position. The climate was quite different from that of Scandinavia, favored by both latitude and insular location. As a result, agricultural productivity was, to a certain extent, the fruit of a benign natural order, rather than the skill or knowledge of the cultivators. Indeed, idleness and ignorance were prevalent despite favorable climate and soil. Kalm observed that the land was not always as improved as it should have been. Even near Ellis’s home village of Little Gaddesden, there were tracts of common land without much economic value.32
Kalm was also keenly aware of another peculiarity of the English economy—its extraordinary reliance on coal. This mineral energy source provided relief from the scarcity of wood but posed problems of its own. When Kalm ascended to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral at the center of London, he found the vista obscured by heavy coal smoke. The pollution seemed to leave a mark on everything in the city, from architecture and public monuments to clothing and ornaments, even preventing many plants from growing in the vicinity. Kalm compiled a list of species hardy enough to prevail over the smoke. He was himself plagued by a [End Page 112] troublesome cough throughout his stay, and many Londoners seemed to suffer the same symptoms.33
These misgivings about the state of British farming, which capitalized on resources easily available but sometimes showed insufficient inclination toward thoughtful, disciplined development, grew stronger still once Kalm reached the colonies. While he was much taken with the wealth and commerce of the New World, Kalm was equally struck by the poor state of American husbandry. In too many places there were signs of shortsighted exploitation and ignorance of the natural world. Only the French empire in America found favor with Kalm: there he discovered the mixture of good government and natural knowledge that he thought best suited to the economic development of Sweden.
A single petrel (Procellaria) began following Pehr Kalm’s ship, the Mary Gally, almost as soon as it ventured into the English Channel. The sailors called the bird a witch and harbinger of bad weather. The sober and pious Kalm, usually so scornful of popular superstition, could barely suppress a feeling of dread: “Let us see if this signifies anything. The Creator commands everything!” Two weeks into the Atlantic crossing, just as the sea grew agitated, he was alarmed to observe a whole flock of petrels appear behind the ship. The captain pointed out that they were feeding on refuse thrown overboard by the passengers, including human excrement. Yet such evidence of providential wisdom failed to soothe the naturalist’s frayed nerves. The rough sea and the persistent birds were unwelcome reminders of the destructive side of God’s Creation, a natural order without mercy, distinct from human use and dominion. The bad omen of the petrel was nearly fulfilled at the very end of the crossing, when the Mary Gally hit a sandbank within sight of the Maryland shore. Kalm prepared for the worst, but the crew unexpectedly managed to free the ship from the sand. He confessed in his travel journal that his faith in providence had faltered at the moment of crisis.34
A sharp sense of deterioration and disorder haunted Kalm throughout his travels in the New World. Even the abundance of new species in America was confounding to the taxonomist. On his first day of botanizing outside Philadelphia, he was “seized with terror at the thought of ranging so many new and unknown parts of natural history.” After spending the winter months in the vicinity of the city, Kalm greeted the coming of spring with a burst of spleen. The land seemed to him cursed by unforgiving natural phenomena, beginning with the darkness [End Page 113] of the American night, wholly unlike the long summer days and snow-lit winter nights of his native land. The woods were full of snakes, with no antidote for their venom. Masses of ticks tortured men and cattle alike. The weather lacked all stability and predictability, oscillating wildly from penetrating cold to excessive heat. Such rapid changes bred a plethora of diseases, which seemed to increase in virulence each year. “No one escapes the fevers.” American husbandry in turn suffered from a plague of pests and blights. Worms spoiled the peas, rye, and cherries, and often ate “all the leaves on the trees and all the grasses in the meadows.” Timber rotted quickly. American oaks produced weak planks. Fences collapsed after a mere decade. The hay meadows were awful and the forests denuded of grasses for the cattle. Livestock yielded less and less milk every year.35
Kalm also grew increasingly concerned with the colonial practice of husbandry. Repeated observations in the field and interviews with settlers confirmed this impression of poor management. Not surprisingly, the question of fodder grasses was central to Kalm. In New Jersey, the Swedish settlers explained that the forest had been lush with waist-high grasses during the early days of colonization. Even in wintertime, there had been plenty of grazing in the woods. Now, the numbers of livestock had increased greatly while the grasses were practically gone. Consequently, bulls and cows were decreasing in size. One major cause, Kalm reasoned, was that those grasses were annuals rather than perennials. Hence, the grazing pressure of large numbers of cattle extirpated (utödde) grasses from the forest. A contributing factor was that the Swedish settlers had ceased to provide winter shelter for cattle, neglecting the tradition of the old country in favor of the English custom. Yet another problem was the settler practice of burning leaves in the woodlands at the end of winter, destroying not just sapling trees but also the seeds of grasses and herbs, which were often hidden in the masses of decomposing leaves. A diversity of plant life survived only on the margins of the forests where fire and cattle could not reach it and in moist places along creeks and rivers. The practice of burning had recently been outlawed by local government, but to little effect.36
For Kalm, the poverty of colonial pasture seemed egregious and perverse. His provincial inventories and correspondence with Sten Carl Bielke were filled with observations about the grazing habits of livestock and projects to improve the quality of pastureland. On his 1742 trip to the provinces of Västergötland and Bohuslän on the Swedish west coast, Kalm amused himself by following horses and cattle around to see what [End Page 114] wild plants they would eat when permitted to choose freely according to the dictates of the Creator. Kalm’s providential patriotism attributed economic value even to obscure wild plants, in turn fostering an expansive understanding of husbandry: the keen naturalist did not let any useful resource go to waste. In contrast, the majority of American farmers seemed content to ignore natural history and the principles of good husbandry: “The corn-fields, the meadows, the forests, the cattle . . . are [all] treated with equal carelessness.”37
Extirpation was threatened not just for New World grasses but also for a wide range of fauna. The ninety-one-year-old Swedish settler Nils Gustafson reported that the abundance of birds and fish prevalent in his youth was now much diminished. He remembered an occasion when, as a young man, he shot eighty ducks in half a day; such hunter’s luck was now a distant memory. John Bartram agreed that local rivers around Philadelphia no longer sustained the abundance of fish and fowl they had in his childhood (he was born in 1699). Even the prodigious quantity of passenger pigeons in the northern woods seemed to be decreasing, perhaps because of the influx of settlers. The numbers of bears, beavers, deer, wolves, and squirrels were also much reduced.38
In the case of predators and nuisance animals, the process of extirpation was deliberate and systematic. The colonial government gave out cash bounties of varying amounts for each head of a panther, wolf, fox, crow, or squirrel. But such efforts could produce unintended consequences. Swedish farmers recognized that the killing of blackbirds merely paved the way for other, competing species. Benjamin Franklin pointed out to Kalm that an attempt to extirpate blackbirds in New England had led to a disastrous increase in worms (Erucae, possibly a palmworm), which heavily damaged the hay meadows. The locals concluded that God had created the blackbird to keep after the worm population.39
For Kalm and other natural historians in the Enlightenment, extirpation meant the local or regional disappearance of a species, not an absolute extinction event. They believed that the number of species had been fixed by God in the first days of Creation and could not be altered by human interference. But such theological dogma offered little consolation to those affected by the loss of local flora and fauna.40 [End Page 115]
In addition to extirpation and bad husbandry, the British colonies were beset by adverse climate change. Already in the Bohuslän journey of 1742, Kalm had recorded a number of stories about changes in the weather. Many of the elderly people he interviewed during this expedition in Sweden suggested that conditions had deteriorated over the previous half century: summers arrived later in the year and were far less warm, and storms were stronger. Kalm’s informants in America shared similar experiences. Indeed, Kalm seems to have concluded by May 1749 that the weather in the New World was now more volatile than that of northern Europe. But he did not venture any explicit hypothesis of his own in the Resejournal about the source of the change, seeing fit merely to report the opinion of people such as Reverend Abraham Lidenius, who believed that deforestation would make the climate colder over time. The clergyman thought the clearing of trees was opening up the land to the effects of chilling winds from the north.41
The character of the natural order in the New World had long puzzled European observers. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, discrepancies in climate between European and American latitudes confounded expectations of a geometric distribution of the temperate zone. Why was Newfoundland at fifty degrees north latitude so cold when the French climate at the same distance from the equator was moderate? Eventually, savants jettisoned any direct identification of climate with latitude. They consoled themselves that a sustained effort at improvement would ameliorate the climate of New England over time.42
Here, the judgments about American natural history converged with the biopolitics of empire and migration. Advocates of colonization adopted the rhetoric of climate amelioration in order to attract migrants and capital. At the same time, a more quantitative approach to climate was slowly making inroads. The introduction of barometers and thermometers facilitated the beginning of record collection. Just before Kalm’s arrival in America, the natural philosopher John Winthrop gathered data on temperature and air pressure during the period of 1743 to 1747. However, such efforts at quantification could shed little light on patterns of weather in the past. The collection of quantitative data did not undermine notions of anthropogenic climate change; on the contrary, such ideas gained force in the Enlightenment. Indeed, climate improvement seems to have become increasingly popular among colonial scholars during the years of conflict with Great Britain. The physician Hugh Williamson argued before the American Philosophical Society in 1770 that deforestation had made the seasons in North America more moderate [End Page 116] after settlement. Thomas Jefferson lent further weight to this view in his Notes on the State of Virginia from 1787. By the final decade of the eighteenth century, such optimistic and patriotic assessments commanded “widespread” support.43
Kalm’s travel journal and correspondence record relatively few conversations about climate with colonial savants. Shortly after landing in Philadelphia, he queried John Bartram about the natural historian Mark Catesby’s theory of species and latitude. Was it true that trees and plants became smaller the farther north they were distributed? Bartram responded with a qualification: Catesby’s dictum was perhaps true for certain southern species, but many large trees and plants native to the north became smaller when they moved south. Kalm was intrigued by Bartram’s suggestion and set out to test the hypothesis with observations from the field.44
A different conception of climate surfaced in Kalm’s exchange with Benjamin Franklin, in correspondence that continued after his return to Sweden, about the likelihood of a Viking expedition to North America. Franklin was won over when Kalm showed him an account of the winter weather experienced by the Norse, which seemed to Franklin consonant with the climate of a “Country . . . southward of New England.” But this puzzle about Vikings on the Eastern Seaboard in turn provoked a question about climate over the long term. Years later, Franklin returned to the question in a letter to Samuel Mather. Now, he suggested that the climate of the North Atlantic had changed since the age of the Vikings. Greenland had “once [been] inhabited and populous” but was “now render’d uninhabitable by Ice.” It appeared that the “perpetual northern Winter has gained ground to the Southward.” This deterioration in climate would also explain how Norsemen could have called the new regions they discovered Vinland. Perhaps “more northern Countries might anciently have had Vines than can bear them in these Days.” Kalm, too, retained an interest in the subject. His student Georgius A. Westman defended a dissertation in 1757 about Viking exploration in the North Atlantic. Another student, Adolph Magnus Foeder, included the examples of Norse Greenland and Iceland in a panoramic survey of environmental deterioration over time. Foeder argued that wrong-headed land use could precipitate a worsening climate and destroy societies like that of the Vikings in Greenland.45 [End Page 117]
In Quebec, the French physician Jean-François Gaulthier shared with Kalm a series of local observations of weather and temperature from 1744 to 1746. Gaulthier confirmed that the climate of the colony had been greatly improved by forest clearance and agricultural cultivation, becoming warmer and more stable. There was no discussion of volatility or deterioration in his account, only the conventional Enlightenment connection between deforestation and rising temperatures. Kalm’s response to Gaulthier was ambivalent. He did not find the quantitative data presented by the physician persuasive, contending that the thermometer was faulty and had not registered cold accurately. But Kalm did publish a qualitative account, based on popular sources, which included the observation that the winter of 1744–45 had been the mildest that the settlers had ever experienced. Local elders also insisted that the corn in the colony ripened earlier now than it did in their youth, around August 20 instead of September 12 or 15. They attributed the change to the clearing of woodlands: the sun could now penetrate into the soil more fully.46
For Kalm, the puzzle of the American climate extended to the problem of vattenminskning. Elderly farmers such as Mr. King and Måns Keen in Racoon, New Jersey, noticed that the level of water in lakes and bogs had diminished since their childhood. They also reported that large amounts of oyster and mussel shells had been discovered in the earth considerable distances inland. Mr. Keen guessed that the whole area had once been covered by the sea. Local settlers held that the shells were deposits from the Deluge or perhaps evidence that “the earth [was] growing” (“att jorden växer”). Even the “wild Indians” of the region believed that the ocean was diminishing after seeing beds of mussel shells in the hills.47
John Bartram, too, was convinced that the “greater part of this land had been completely under water in the past.” Shells were buried in the soil across the region from Virginia and Maryland to New York. In Philadelphia, rounded stones like those found along the seashore lay [End Page 118] buried at a depth of fourteen feet. Even in what Kalm referred to as the “Blew mountains,” three hundred miles from the coast, one could find shells of oysters and other marine species. According to Bartram, the Indians believed that water had covered the mountain range in the time of their ancestors. Bartram also confirmed the stories of desiccation and falling water levels in rivers and marshlands. Water mills built sixty years ago on rushing streams now had barely enough water to operate except in springtime or after heavy rains. But he suggested that desiccation of the land might be connected with deforestation and increased cultivation, and like the elderly settlers, Bartram surmised that the evidence of a higher sea level had some connection with the Deluge. He also referred to Thomas Burnet’s idea that the sun in the antediluvian world had been perpetually in the equinox. This springtime of the planet would explain, Bartram suggested, why the climate in the past had been so much warmer, not just in North America but also in Siberia. Kalm made no editorial comment in the Resejournal about these competing explanations, leaving it an open question as to whether desiccation caused by vattenminskning was directly related to the increasing volatility in the weather in America and whether anthropogenic causes had anything to do with either phenomenon. However, the interviews with Bartram and others did confirm the massive scale of environmental change; the natural order of America was not static but rather subject to vast forces of change. In his 1749 article on the natural history of Pennsylvania, which he presented to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Kalm announced with great confidence that he had found ample proof of vattenminskning in the New World. The retreat of the Atlantic could be verified on both sides of the ocean.48
Kalm’s long journey from New Jersey to Quebec and back left him with another certainty: good government and careful husbandry were imperative to managing a precarious natural order. The British colonies were undeniably prosperous in many places, but he found both farmers and officials lacking in expertise and prudence, not least in the management of grasses. Only in the French territories did he come across a far-sighted approach to the problem of agriculture in the New World. This strong bias did not go unnoticed. The Pennsylvania statesman and natural philosopher James Logan was fairly mystified by Kalm’s behavior: [End Page 119] “I know not what to make of him, nor of his Journey to Canada.” Logan complained that Kalm had spent nearly five months in Quebec, dining “many times at the Governors,” yet had kept aloof from most polite company in the British colonies. An extract from a letter by Kalm printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette extolled the wisdom of French clergymen and administrators: “I have found more learned Men in Canada, than I imagined had been in all America. The Jesuits in general excel in several Parts of Learning; and the King’s Officers also are skilful in the Arts and Sciences.”49
In Quebec, the governor Roland-Michel Barrin, Marquis de Galissonière, offered Kalm and his companion a warm reception, including material assistance with the expedition as well as freely shared knowledge about local flora and fauna. Galissonière was a keen botanist himself, someone who recognized the importance of natural history to the state. To this end, he deployed the administrative system and military establishment of the colony to gather information about plants and other natural resources. “Never was there a better statesman than he,” Kalm wrote. “Nobody can take better measures, and choose more proper means for improving a country, and encreasing its welfare.” Kalm was charmed by the prosperous and well-ordered appearance of the province. While there were problems there as well—including a pattern of extirpation of animals, birds, and fish—Kalm seemed reassured that the natural order was better managed than in the British colonies. The observations provided by Galissonière’s assistant Gaulthier may have reinforced this perception. The cold climate of Quebec appeared to be changing to a more moderate pattern, yet showed no sign of the volatility of the weather in the British colonies.50
When Pehr Kalm returned to Stockholm in the summer of 1751, Carolus Linnaeus greeted him with childlike enthusiasm. The apostle carried with him a bounty of seeds and plants destined, Linnaeus hoped, to transform the Swedish economy. As the new professor of “Oeconomy” at Åbo University, Kalm pursued this dream in a series of botanical and agricultural experiments. He triumphantly sent the academy a list of dozens [End Page 120] of species and varieties to be introduced into the kingdom, from wild oats (“fol avoine,” Avena fatua) to American ginseng (Panax cinquefolius) and black mulberry (Morus nigra). But these high hopes went unfulfilled. Instead Kalm bickered with the academy about his expenses and struggled to secure a garden for his trials. While some plants thrived in the shelter of the nursery, none matched the economic expectations of the two naturalists.51
In the aftermath of the American journey, Kalm became interested in the possibility of climate amelioration at home. The failures in acclimatization probably encouraged this strategy. When American plants did not habituate to Finnish conditions, Kalm seems to have concluded that he should tackle the problem of climate more directly. The first step toward amelioration was to survey the state of agriculture and forestry across the nation. Kalm employed his students at the University of Åbo to compile descriptions of Finnish parishes (sockenbeskrivning), following a model pioneered by Jacob Faggot. A string of dissertations supervised by Kalm explored different methods of improvement, from forestry and flax culture to moss reclamation.52
The idea of climate amelioration enjoyed increasing support among Swedish and Finnish savants in the late Enlightenment. Kalm’s colleague at Åbo, the plantation director and chemist Pehr Adrian Gadd, gave theoretical justification to this enterprise by elucidating the distinction between the geographic and physical climate. Geographic latitude alone did not determine temperature and precipitation. Instead, climate was a product of local physical features, including in particular the degree of cultivation and settlement. Similar ideas were entertained by other savants in Finland and Sweden, including the surveyor Ephraim Otto Runeberg, the economic writer Johan Fredrik Kryger, and the clergyman Peter Högström.53
Kalm’s student Esaias Wegelius proposed in his 1763 dissertation that the draining of mosses in Finland would moderate local temperatures [End Page 121] and give the country a new milder pattern of weather and seasons. A comparison of the Old and New World encouraged this logic. Why was there such a difference in climate between Amsterdam and Quebec, even though their latitude was quite similar? Wegelius proposed that the harsh winters of Canada were the product of innumerable marshes and mosses, whereas the Dutch wetlands had long ago been drained and turned into farmland, on the theory that stagnant bodies of water had a chilling effect on the surrounding fields in the spring and summer, causing frosts and slowing the growth of vegetation. Like many Enlightenment savants, Wegelius turned to Tacitus’s Germania for evidence, noting how astonishingly different modern Germany was in weather and fertility compared to its ancient counterpart. He also observed that climate and agriculture could deteriorate over time. Spain and Palestine had degenerated into arid wastelands compared with their former flourishing states. The key to a beneficial climate was “prudent husbandry” (omtänksam hushållning), which in turn depended on “the police and economic laws of the inhabitants” (dess inwånares Politie och hushålls författningar)—“police” is here used in the early modern sense of political, social, and administrative order (not law enforcement). To this end, Wegelius proposed that the state employ soldiers in peacetime to drain the marshes and give out premiums to farmers as an encouragement toward moss reclamation as a fertilizer or to produce more arable land.54
This optimism about the prospects of amelioration seems to have reached a peak in the final years of Kalm’s life. Adolph Magnus Foeder insisted in his 1778 dissertation for Kalm that the climate of Finland had already been improved greatly through the process of cultivation and settlement. Like Wegelius, he placed the case of Finland within a world history of environmental improvement and degradation. The climate of Surinam and other places in South America had been very unhealthy in the early days of exploration, but forest clearance and agriculture had ameliorated the pattern of weather and dispelled disease. Foeder also cited Kalm’s interviews with Pennsylvania settlers to the effect that winters had become much shorter and less severe over the previous eighty to one hundred years.55
Like Wegelius, Foeder noted many examples in which cultivation resulted in deterioration, including the case of Norse Iceland. The coasts [End Page 122] of the island had once been covered with forests. When the trees were cut down, grain cultivation became impossible. The same process seemed to have depopulated the Viking settlements of eastern Greenland as well. Deforestation and drainage might improve many regions, but woods also offered shelter from the dangerous chill of northwesterly winds and therefore should have been left intact as a natural barrier in vulnerable places. Kalm had applied the same principle in his own acclimatization projects after the American voyage. A good experimental garden had to be “sheltered from . . . the northerly wind, on a slope oriented towards the south-east.”56
By following the arc of Kalm’s life from his early grass trials with Bielke through the American journey to the Finnish improvement schemes of his later years, we can trace a continuous thread of cameralist thought and practice. Kalm’s vision of the natural world was infused with a heady mixture of providentialism and patriotism. The expertise of the naturalist pierced through the veils of nature to discover the uses of plants and the means to improve soil and climate. Such divine treasures had to be carefully classified, monitored, and husbanded. Natural historians should act as the eyes of the state in the vital matter of conserving and improving the resources of the nation. This cameralist bias explains why Kalm was so keen to discover signs of environmental deterioration in the New World. His commitment to expert rule found the practice of American husbandry lacking in governmental oversight and prudence, with the revealing exception of Galissonière’s Canadian administration. Kalm’s natural world was not simple, stable, and self-governing, but rather complex, malleable, and fragile. Good government could uncover prodigious secrets of nature and even alter the climate, while ignorance might squander the same cornucopian riches and turn an earthly paradise into a barren wilderness.
Pehr Kalm’s work has enjoyed a long intellectual afterlife in the Anglo-American world, producing multiple, if not always compatible, legacies. Jan Golinski argues that Travels Into North America presents a watershed in the natural history of climate amelioration among American savants: Kalm was the first figure to “put into literary circulation” the idea of improving the New World climate. Travels Into North America was succeeded by a series of works lauding the promise of anthropogenic climate change by Hugh Williamson, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and others. Golinski’s interpretation has great merit as long as we recognize that [End Page 123] American savants were sometimes reading Kalm’s natural history against the grain, ignoring or rejecting his misgivings about New World extirpation and waste.57
On the eve of the American Revolution, Kalm’s account of New World agriculture was picked up in the anonymous two-volume work, American Husbandry (1775). This survey of agriculture from the West Indies to New England included a critique of waste in American farming, derived explicitly from Kalm’s analysis: “There is no error in husbandry of worse consequence than not being sufficiently solicitous about manure.” Kalm’s observations in the Mid-Atlantic colonies here served as a forceful reminder that American husbandry faced a basic contradiction. Cheap and abundant new territory allowed farmers to neglect the art of soil culture. The “planters in New Jersey and our other colonies” seemed to have no other desire than to plough up “fresh land.” This critique became the germ of a short-lived movement against frontier settlement in New England during the 1820s. Kalm’s observations on this issue have also had a long-lasting scholarly impact. The image of the negligent farmer has become something of a staple in historical works on colonial agriculture and the environment. Recently, however, a few scholars have sought to establish a more nuanced understanding of how mixed husbandry operated in colonial settings.58
Adam Smith’s reliance on Kalm in The Wealth of Nations (1776) is perhaps the most ideologically important but also the least well known of his many afterlives. Smith’s defense of markets rested on a carnivorous and agrarian foundation. The Union of England and Scotland in 1707 had paved the way for Scottish cattle exports and consequently better soil husbandry north of the border. It was an expanding market in beef that made it profitable to invest in the system of mixed husbandry, which replenished arable land with inputs of manure from nearby pastures. Smith expected that the British colonies in America would follow the same path. Here he appropriated Kalm’s natural history for his own [End Page 124] classical liberal aims. In the early days, cattle had been permitted to range freely in the American forests, degenerating in size and extirpating native grasses, just as Kalm reported. But Smith predicted that this wasteful practice would come to an end when urban consumers demanded beef in greater quantities. For Smith, there was no contradiction between abundant land and good husbandry. The trend of degeneration and neglect was temporary. Smith also rejected Kalm’s call for enlightened expertise. The price of cattle on an open market was the key to improvement, not the providential secrets discovered by the natural historian. Smith’s interpretation of Kalm helped establish two powerful assumptions in the arsenal of economic thought: the economy of the market and the economy of nature were harmoniously intertwined, and problems of mismanagement or degradation were transitional, resolved in the long run by market-driven improvement.59
Kalm’s journey to America opens a window onto a different Enlightenment, preoccupied with environmental degradation and natural instability as much as improvement and mastery. It is telling that Smith made no reference to the idea of anthropogenic climate change in The Wealth of Nations. Prosperity was the product of liberal laws, specialization, and market expansion, not the amelioration of climate. There was no room for fears of adverse climate change in Smith’s political economy. His idealized vision of the environment imagined nature as a resilient and stable order, the counterpart of a neoclassical palace. By recovering the cameralist science and politics of Kalm, we glimpse a rival understanding of the natural world, shot through with complexity and contradictions.
For Kalm, climate was not just a physical state subject to improvement through human intervention. It was also a realm of uncertainty, fraught with the risk of unintended consequences. Deforestation could improve the climate of a colony over time, but it might also expose it to destructive winds that could ruin agriculture and jeopardize settlement. From this perspective, the history of civilization and colonization offered an array of climate puzzles, not all of them reassuring. Histories of anthropogenic climate change were in turn couched within the larger physical process of vattenminskning, the retreat of the ocean, demonstrated by the annual diminution of the Baltic Sea and hypothesized for the Atlantic Ocean as well. This was climate history on a global scale, close in spirit to the theory of oceanic retreat espoused by Benoît de Maillet (1656–1738) and the history of planetary cooling postulated by the Comte de Buffon (1707–88). Humans might have gained the power to change the face of the earth, according to Buffon, but they could [End Page 125] not overcome the tendency of the earth’s core to cool. In Kalm’s travels and writings, we glimpse the same contradiction: a climate under the spell of technology, yet still subject to natural processes beyond human influence.60 [End Page 126]
Fredrik Albritton Jonsson is an associate professor of British History and Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. He would like to thank the archivists and librarians at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the National Library in Stockholm for their assistance with his research. This article benefited greatly from the comments by the anonymous readers of the William and Mary Quarterly as well as the audience in the history of science workshop at the University of Chicago. He owes a special debt of gratitude to Vicky Albritton, Emily Pawley, and Anya Zilberstein for their help with the draft. Thanks also to Chris Parsons for advice on Quebecois natural history. All translations are by the author unless otherwise noted.
1. Pehr Kalm (1716–79) was a member of the Swedish-speaking minority population in Finland. He spent much of his adult life in the Finnish town of Åbo. Finland remained a Swedish possession until it was conquered by Russia in 1809. Kalm, Resejournal över Resan till Norra Amerika [Travel journal of the voyage to North America], ed. Martti Kerkkonen and John E. Roos (Helsinki, 1970), 2: 392, 423–24. Kalm’s general term in Swedish for climate change was “Väderlekens förändring” (changes in the play or movement of weather). On climate amelioration, see Clarence J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley, Calif., 1973); Carl Frängsmyr, Klimat och karaktär: Natur och människan i sent svenskt 1700-tal [Climate and character: Nature and man in late 18th-century Sweden] (Stockholm, 2000); Jan Golinski, British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment (Chicago, 2007), chap. 6. For the question of actual climate change in the late seventeenth century, see Geoffrey Parker, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven, Conn., 2013). For a critique of the concept of the Little Ice Age, see Morgan Kelly and Cormac O’Grada, “The Waning of the Little Ice Age,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 44, no. 3 (Winter 2014): 301–25.
2. On cornucopian thought in the early modern era, see Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, “The Origins of Cornucopianism: A Preliminary Genealogy,” Critical Historical Studies 1, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 151–68.
3. Richard H. Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860 (Cambridge, 1995), 317, 325–28; Johann Reinhold Forster, Observations Made during a Voyage Round the World, ed. Nicholas Thomas et al. (Honolulu, 1996), lx–lxiv; William Beinart, The Rise of Conservation in South Africa: Settlers, Livestock, and the Environment, 1770–1950 (Oxford, 2003); Aaron Sachs, The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism (New York, 2006); Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Enlightenment’s Frontier: The Scottish Highlands and the Origins of Environmentalism (New Haven, Conn., 2013).
4. Thomas Jefferson Lyon, This Incomparable Land: A Guide to American Nature Writing (Minneapolis, Minn., 2001), 46; Joachim Radkau, Nature and Power: A Global History of the Environment, trans. Thomas Dunlap (New York, 2008), 377; Richard W. Judd, The Untilled Garden: Natural History and the Spirit of Conservation in America, 1740–1840 (New York, 2009), 30, 278; Laura Hollsten, “Pehr Kalm’s skildring av resan till England och Amerika 1747–1751 som global miljöhistoria” [Pehr Kalm’s account of the voyage to America and England 1747–1751 as global environmental history], in Leos Müller et al., eds., Global historia från periferin: Norden 1600–1850 [Global history from the periphery: The Nordic countries 1600–1850] (Lund, Sweden, 2010), 231–53.
5. En Resa Til Norra America: På Kongl. Swenska Wetenskaps Academiens befallning, Och Publici kostnad, förrättad af Pehr Kalm. . . . [A voyage to North America: At the command of the Royal Swedish Academy and at the expense of the public, conducted by Pehr Kalm], 3 vols. (Stockholm, 1753–61); Beschreibung der Reise die er nach dem Nördlichen Amerika auf den Befehl gedachter Akademie, 3 vols. (Göttingen, Germany, 1754–64); Travels Into North America; Containing Its Natural History, And A Circumstantial Account. . . . , trans. John Reinhold Forster, 3 vols. (Warrington, U.K., 1770–71); Reis Door Noord Amerika, 2 vols. (Utrecht, Netherlands, 1772). The entire travel journal is only available in Swedish, but parts of it have appeared in English; see Joseph Lucas, trans., Kalm’s Account of His Visit to England: On His Way to America in 1748 (London, 1892); Adolph B. Benson, ed., The America of 1750: Peter Kalm’s Travels in North America, 2 vols. (New York, 1937); W. R. Mead, Pehr Kalm in the Chilterns (Helsinki, 1962); Lars Hanson, ed., The Linnaeus Apostles: Global Science and Adventure, vol. 3, bks. 1 and 2 (Whitby, U.K., 2008).
6. William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York, 1983), 168–69; Virginia DeJohn Anderson, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America (New York, 2004), 154–56; Brian Donahue, The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord (New Haven, Conn., 2004), 206, 299; Avery Odelle Craven, Soil Exhaustion as a Factor in the Agricultural History of Virginia and Maryland, 1606–1860 (Columbia, S.C., 2006), 34.
7. Grove, Green Imperialism; Paul N. Edwards, A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (Cambridge, Mass., 2010), 29–34; Fabien Locher and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, “Modernity’s Frail Climate: A Climate History of Environmental Reflexivity,” Critical Inquiry 38, no. 3 (Spring 2012): 579–98.
8. Sten Hjalmar Lindroth, Kungliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Historia 1739–1818 [The history of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1739–1818], 2 vols. (Stockholm, 1967); Michael Roberts, The Age of Liberty: Sweden, 1719–1772 (Cambridge, U.K., 1986).
9. Keith Tribe, “Cameralism and the Science of Government,” Journal of Modern History 56, no. 2 (June 1984): 263–84; Henry Lowood, Patriotism, Profit, and the Promotion of Science in the German Enlightenment: The Economic and Scientific Societies, 1670–1815 (New York, 1991); Lisbet Koerner, Linnaeus: Nature and Nation (Cambridge, Mass., 1999), 4–6; Andre Wakefield, The Disordered Police State: German Cameralism as Science and Practice (Chicago, 2009); Alix Cooper, Inventing the Indigenous: Local Knowledge and Natural History in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2010).
10. Lindroth, Kungliga Svenska, 1: 291; Joan Thirsk, Alternative Agriculture: A History from the Black Death to the Present Day (Oxford, 1997); David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (New York, 2006).
11. Koerner, Linnaeus.
12. Martti Kerkkonen, Peter Kalm’s North American Journey: Its Ideological Background and Results (Helsinki, 1959), 40, 51, 53.
13. Pehr Kalm and Sten Carl Bielke, Pehr Kalms Brev till Friherre Sten Carl Bielke [Pehr Kalm’s letters to Sir Sten Carl Bielke], ed. Carl Skottberg (Åbo, Finland, 1960), 52, 82; Malin Eriksson, Sten Carl Bielkes och Pehr Kalms försöksodlingar vid Lövsta [The agricultural trials of Sten Carl Bielke and Pehr Kalm at Lövsta] (Uppsala, 2005).
14. Kalm and Bielke, Pehr Kalms Brev, 216.
15. Ibid., 56 (“I have learned”); Koerner, Linnaeus, 48–49; see also Carolus Linnaeus, Pan Svecicus [The Swedish pan] (Uppsala, Sweden, 1749); Pehr Kalm, Västgöta och bohuslänska Resan 1742 [Voyage to Västergötland and Bohuslän, 1742], ed. Claes Krantz (Stockholm, 1960), 85–86.
16. Linnaeus, Flora lapponica [The flora of Lapland] (Uppsala, Sweden, 1737); Koerner, Linnaeus, 68–76.
17. Koerner, Linnaeus, 80, 113; Sverker Sörlin and Otto Fagerstedt, Linné och hans apostlar [Linnaeus and his apostles] (Stockholm, 2004).
18. Kerkkonen, Peter Kalm’s North American Journey, 56–66; Kalm and Bielke, Pehr Kalms Brev, 121, 137; Sörlin and Fagerstedt, Linné och hans apostlar, 58; Staffan Müller-Wille, “Walnuts at Hudson Bay, Coral Reefs in Gotland: The Colonialism of Linnaean Botany,” in Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World, ed. Londa Schiebinger and Claudia Swann (Philadelphia, 2005), 34–48, esp. 39.
19. Kerkkonen, Peter Kalm’s North American Journey, 52.
20. Anders Celsius, “Anmärkningar om Vattnets forminskning så i Östersjön som i Vesterhafvet” [Remarks about the diminution of water in the Baltic and the Western Sea], Kungliga Vetenskapsakademiens Handlingar (KVAH) [Transactions of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences] 4 (January, February, March 1743): 33–50, esp. 37, 42–45, 48, 50. Martin Rudwick suggests that Celsius’s work was a variation on the Neptunist “standard model” of Enlightenment geotheory; see Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution (Chicago, 2005), 178–79.
21. Nils Gissler, “Anledning att utröna vattnets avfall I Östersjön for vissa år” [Reason to inquire into the diminution of water in the Baltic Sea over a certain period of time], KVAH 8 (April, May, June 1747): 142–49, esp. 147; Olof von Dahlin, Svea rikes historia [The history of the Swedish kingdom], 4 vols. (Stockholm, 1747–61); Christer Nordlund, Det upphöjda landet: vetenskapen, landhöjningsfrågan, och kartläggningen av Sveriges förflutna, 1860–1930 [The elevated land: Science, the question of post-glacial rebound, and the mapping of Sweden’s past, 1860–1930] (Umeå, Sweden, 2001), 15–16.
22. Carolus Linnaeus, Oratio de telluris habitabilis incremento [Oration on the increase of the habitable earth] (Leyden, Netherlands, 1744).
23. On Xanthos and Simos, see ibid., 32; see also Janet Browne, The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography (New Haven, Conn., 1983).
24. Kalm and Bielke, Pehr Kalms Brev, 20 (“lusus ingenii”), 50; Kerkkonen, Peter Kalm’s North American Journey, 146–48; Kalm, Västgöta och bohuslänska Resan, 43, 62, 67, 73, 97, 125, 127, 130, 134, 165, 192; Pehr Kalm, “Några anmärkningar rörande historia naturalis och climatet i Pennsylvanien. . . .” [A few remarks about the natural history and climate of Pennsylvania], KVAH 10 (January, February, March 1749): 70–75, esp. 73.
25. The Julian calendar was employed in Sweden during the period 1711–53.
26. Pehr Kalm, Resejournal över Resan till Norra Amerika [Travel journal of the voyage to North America], vols. 1–2, ed. Martti Kerkkonen (Helsinki, 1966–70), esp. 1: viii–xii; Kalm, Resejournal över Resan till Norra Amerika, vols. 3–4, ed. John E. Roos and Harry Krogerus (Helsinki, 1985–88); Kerkkonen, Peter Kalm’s North American Journey, 76.
27. Müller-Wille, “Walnuts at Hudson Bay,” 45–46; John Bartram, Observations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, and other matters worthy of Notice. . . . (London, 1751), 84 (“Marvellous”), 94; by way of comparison, see Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 (New York, 1998), 350–51. The tradition of using local informants was hardly new; for an earlier example that may have influenced Kalm, see Urban Hiärne, En kort Anledning till åtskillige Malm-och Bergarters, Mineraliers Wäxters, och jordeslags, sampt flere sällsamme Tings efterspöriande och angifwande [A short account of the examination and classification of diverse ores, minerals, plants and soils, together with other rare things] (Stockholm, 1694).
28. Kalm, “Skäl mot och med vattnets aftagande i Norrige” [Reasons against and for the diminution of water in Norway], KVAH 9 (April, May, June 1748): 151–54, esp. 153; Kalm, Resejournal, 1: 46, 68–69, 91, 94, 106, 110–11.
29. Kalm, Resejournal, 1: 45, 51, 61, 72–73.
30. Ibid., 1: 53 (“ripen”), 82–83 (“gamble,” 83), 46, 62; Jason W. Moore, “‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’ Part II: The Global North Atlantic in the Ecological Revolution of the Long Seventeenth Century,” Journal of Agrarian Change 10, no. 2 (April 2010): 188–227.
31. Kalm, Resejournal, 1: 306 (“garden”), 118, 150.
32. Ibid., 127–28, 154, 162.
33. Ibid., 136–37, 273, 338. On pollution in early modern London, see William Cavert, “Producing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Society in London, 1550–1750” (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 2011).
34. Kalm, Resejournal, 2 (“Let us see”), 95, 111–14, 127, 129–31.
35. Kalm, Travels Into North America, 1: 31 (“seized with terror”); Kalm, Resejournal, 3: 73–74 (“fevers,” 73, “leaves,” 74).
36. Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 245, 312–13, 402, 423, 3: 1, 42–43; Kalm, Travels Into North America 1: 102–3, 184–86, 343–45, 2: 192–95, 3: 5–7, 241–43. See by way of comparison Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, “Rival Ecologies of Global Commerce: Adam Smith and the Natural Historians,” American Historical Review 115, no. 5 (December 2010): 1342–63.
37. Kalm, Travels Into North America, 2: 194 (quotation); Kalm, Västgöta och bohuslänska Resan, 34–35, 85–87, 92–3.
38. Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 226, 412, 3: 117; Kalm, “Beskrifning på de vilda dufvor, hvilka somliga år I otrolig myckenhet komma till de södra Engelska nybyggen i Norra America” [Description of the wild pigeons that some years visit the southern English settlements in North America], KVAH 20 (October, November, December 1759): 275–95, esp. 284–86.
39. Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 384–85, 392–93.
40. Martin Rudwick, The Meaning of Fossils: Episodes in the History of Paleontology (Chicago, 1985), 101; Albritton Jonsson, Enlightenment’s Frontier, chap. 8.
41. Kalm, Västgöta och bohuslänska Resan, 69, 73, 97, 99, 134; Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 305, 372, 392, 411, 423–24, 3: 12, 4: 36.
42. Karen Ordahl Kupperman, “The Puzzle of the American Climate in the Early Colonial Period,” American Historical Review 87, no. 5 (December 1982): 1262–89.
43. Golinski, British Weather, 194–98 (“widespread,” 198); Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1955); Anya Zilberstein, A Temperate Empire: Making Climate Change in Early America (Oxford, forthcoming).
44. Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 174; Kalm, Travels Into North America, 1, 143; Joyce E. Chaplin, “Mark Catesby, A Skeptical Newtonian in America,” in Empire’s Nature: Mark Catesby’s New World Vision, ed. Amy R. W. Meyers and Margaret Beck Pritchard (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1998), 34–90, esp. 85.
45. Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Mather, July 7, 1773, letterbook draft and extract, National Archives: Founders Online, accessed Nov. 10, 2014, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-20-02-0156#BNFN-01-20-02-0156 (quotations); many thanks to Anya Zilberstein for this reference. By way of comparison, see Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 227; Georgius A. Westman, Itinera Priscorum Scandianorum in Americam [Ancient journeys of the Norse in America] (Åbo, Finland, 1757); Adolph Magnus Foeder and Pehr Kalm, Oförgripeliga Tanckar om den värkan som ett lands upodling har pa dess climat [Self-evident thoughts on the effect of cultivation on the climate of a country] (Åbo, Finland, 1778).
46. The data was published in the Swedish but not English version of the account: see Pehr Kalm, Pehr Kalms Resa till Norra Amerika, ed. Fredrik Elfving (Helsinki, 1915), 3: 352–53. See by way of comparison Kalm, Travels Into North America, 3: 246–52.
47. Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 323–25 (“the earth,” 2: 323); Kalm, KVAH 10: 73 (“wild Indians); see also Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 170, 203, 224, 323–25, 3: 82–83, 114–15, 238, 4: 15. On desiccation theory in other kinds of environments, see Grove, Green Imperialism; Diana Jones, Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa (Athens, Ohio, 2007), 72–79.
48. Kalm, Resejournal, 2: 170–71 (quotations, 2: 170), 202–3; Kalm, KVAH 10: 73; Thomas Burnet, The Sacred Theory of the Earth: Containing an Account of the Original of the Earth. . . . (Glasgow, 1753), 1: 188; Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore, 408; by way of comparison, Burnet’s theory of the conflagration of the earth included a notion of desiccation and oceanic diminution; Burnet, Sacred Theory of the Earth, 2: 85. Bartram seems to have discussed the diminution of the oceans with Peter Collinson in 1751; see William Darlington, ed., Memorials of John Bartram and Humphry Marshall, with Notices of Their Botanical Contemporaries (Philadelphia, 1849), 186.
49. James Logan to Peter Collinson, Feb. 28, 1749/50, letterbook copy from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, accessed through National Archives: Founders Online on Aug. 20, 2014, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-03-02-0187 (“I know not”); “Extract of a Letter from a Swedish Gentleman. . . . ,” Pennsylvania Gazette, Oct. 12, 1749 (“more learned Men”); see also Kalm to Benjamin Franklin, Aug. 6, 1749, in Leonard W. Labaree, ed., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin (New Haven, Conn., 1961), 3: 383–85.
50. Kalm, Resejournal, 4: 28–29, 36, 128; Kalm, Travels Into North America, 3: 242–43 (quotations, 3: 243), 5–7, 48, 64, 153, 249–51; Roland Lamontagne, La Galissonière et le Canada (Montreal, 1962); J. Rousseau, “Le mémoir de La Galissonière aux naturalistes canadiens de 1749,” Le naturaliste canadien 93 (1966): 669–81.
51. Pehr Kalm, En Kårt Berättelse om Naturliga Stället, nyttan, samt skötseln af några waxter, utaf hwilka frön nyligen blifwit hembragte från Norra America. . . . [A short narrative of the natural situation, utility, and management of some plants, whose seeds have recently been introduced from North America] (Stockholm, 1751), 15 (quotation), 30; Müller-Wille, “Walnuts at Hudson Bay,” 45; Åsa Ahrland, Den osynliga handen: Trädgårdsmästaren i 1700-talets Sverige [The invisible hand: The gardener in eighteenth-century Sweden] (Stockholm, 2006), 215–17; Pehr Kalm to Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin, Oct. 12, 1751, and Oct. 19, 1751, Wargentin Correspondence, Center for History of Science, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (RSAS). Not all introductions of new plants failed; Kalm proudly reported his flourishing hickory trees in 1779. See Kalm to Wargentin, Oct. 20, 1778, Wargentin Correspondence, RSAS.
52. Pehr Kalm to Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin, Apr. 27, 1752, Wargentin Correspondence, RSAS; Carl Frängsmyr, Klimat och karaktär, 54. Kalm may have ghostwritten a number of these dissertations, following the practice of his mentor Linnaeus.
53. Carl Frängsmyr, Klimat och karaktär, 51–63.
54. Esaias Wegelius and Pehr Kalm, Tankar om nödvändigheten at utdika och upodla kärr och mossar i Finland [Thoughts about the necessity of draining and cultivating swamps and mosses in Finland] (Åbo, Finland, 1763), 2 (quotations), 4–5, 9–10. For the early modern concept of Polizei or police, see Mark Raeff, “The Well Ordered Police State and the Development of Modernity in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Europe: An Attempt at a Comparative Approach,” American Historical Review 80, no. 5 (December 1975): 1121–43.
55. Foeder and Kalm, Oförgripeliga Tanckar, 4–5, 8.
56. Pehr Kalm to Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin, Apr. 24, 1754, Wargentin Correspondence, RSAS (quotation). Kalm apparently chose the location of his own garden in Sipsalo outside Åbo according to the same principle. Thanks to Laura Hollsten for suggesting this possibility. See also Foeder and Kalm, Oförgripeliga Tanckar, 5–6.
57. Jan Golinski, “American Climate and the Civilization of Nature,” in Science and Empire in the Atlantic World, ed. James Delbourgo and Nicholas Dew (London, 2008), 153–74 (quotation, 161); by way of comparison, see Golinski, British Weather, 197. Thomas Jefferson used Kalm’s zoological observations to refute Buffon’s thesis of New World degeneration; see Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 53, 55.
58. An American, American husbandry: Containing an Account of the Climate, Production and Agriculture, Of The British Colonies In North-America and the West-Indies. . . . (London, 1775), 1: 144–45 (quotations, 1: 144); Robert Scott Davis, “Richard Oswald as ‘An American’: How a Frontier South Carolina Plantation Identifies the Anonymous Author of American Husbandry and a Forgotten Founding Father of the United States,” Journal of Backcountry Studies 8, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 19–34; Steven Stoll, Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, 2002). For the use of Kalm in agrarian and environmental history, see 102–3 n. 6.
59. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. R. H. Campbell, A. S. Skinner, and W. B. Todd, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1976), 1: 167, 240–241, 245; see also Albritton Jonsson, “Rival Ecologies of Global Commerce.”
60. Rhoda Rappaport, When Geologists Were Historians, 1665–1750 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1997), 227, 230; Georges Louis Le Clerc de Buffon, Les époques de la nature, ed. Jacques Roger (Paris, 1988); Jan Zalasiewicz, “Encore des Buffonades, mon cher comte?” in Origins: Newsletter of the International Big History Association 4, no. 5 (): 10.