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Food and the Environment

Questions to Consider While Reading

What impact has European colonialism had on extra-European environments? What role did the production of food play in shaping these impacts?

In what ways have indigenous people modified their environments?

What is at stake in describing indigenous people as 'ecologically noble savages'?


Please read one item from each section.

Colonial Agriculture and the Environment

Beinart, William, and Lotte Hughes, 'Environmental Aspects of the Altantic Slave Trade and Caribbean Plantations', Environment and Empire (Oxford, 2007).*

Cronan, William, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York, 1983), 'The View from Walden'.

Engineer, Urmi, 'Sugar Revisited: Sweetness and the Environment in the Early Modern World', The Global Lives of Things: The Material Culture of Connections in the Early Modern World, eds. Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello (London, 2016).*

Melville, Elinor, A Plague of Sheep: Environmental Consequences of the Conquest of Mexico (Cambridge, 1994), Introduction.*

García Garagarza, León, 'The Year the People Turned into Cattle: The End of the World in New Spain, 1558', Centering Animals in Latin American History, eds Martha Few and Zeb Tortorici (Durham, 2013).
Grove, Richard, ‘Climatic fears: Colonialism and the History of Environmentalism’, Harvard International Review 23.4 (2002)
Lindskog, Per. , ‘From Saint Domingue to Haiti: Some Consequences of European Colonisation on the Physical Environment of Hispaniola’, Caribbean Geography 9.2 (1998).
Moore, Jason W., ‘Sugar and the Expansion of the Early Modern World-Economy: Commodity Frontiers, Ecological Transformation, and Industrialization’, Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 23:3 (2000).

'Ecologically Noble Savages'

Denevan, William M., ‘The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82:3 (1992)
Nadasdy, Paul, ‘Transcending the Debate over the Ecologically Noble Indian: Indigenous Peoples and Environmentalism’, Ethnohistory 52:2 (2005).

Redford, Kent, ‘The Ecologically Noble Savage’, Cultural Survival Quarterly 15 (1991).

*Sign into the Warwick Library catalogue to access the online version.

To Learn More

Anderson, Virginia DeJohn, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America (Oxford, 2004).

Beinart, William, and Lotte Hughes, Environment and Empire (Oxford, 2007).*

Candiani, Vera, Dreaming of Dry Land: Environmental Transformation in Colonial Mexico City S(tanford, 2014).
Crosby, Alfred, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport, 1972).

Dean, Warren, With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, University of California Press (Berkeley, 1995).

DeLoughrey, Elizabeth M., and George B. Handley, eds., Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (Oxford, 2011).*
DeLoughrey, Elizabeth M., Renée K. Gosson, and George B. Handley, eds., Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture (Charlottesville, 2005).

Dore, Elizabeth, ‘How Sustainable were Pre-Columbian Civilizations”, Green Guerrillas: Environmental Conflicts and Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean, ed. Helen Collinson, Black Rose Books (Montreal, 1997).

Drayton, Richard, Nature’s Government. Science, Imperial Britain, and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (New Haven, 2000).

Elson, R.E., Javanese Peasants and the Colonial Sugar Industry: Impact and Change in an East Java Residency, 1830 – 1940 (Oxford, 1984).

Fischer, John Ryan, Cattle Colonialism: An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai'i (Chapel Hill, 2015).
Grove, Richard, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860 (Cambridge, 1996).

Kumar, Deepak, Vinita Damodaran and Rohan D’Souza, eds., The British Empire and the Natural World: Environmental Encounters in South Asia (Oxford, 2011).

Mackenzie, Fiona, ‘Contested Ground: Colonial Narratives and the Kenyan Environment, 1920–1945’, Journal of Southern African Studies 26:4 (2000)

Meniketti, ‘Marco, 'Sugar Mills, Technology, and Environmental Change: A Case Study of Colonial Agro-Industrial Development in the Caribbean’, Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology 32:1 (2006).

Miller, Shawn, Fruit-less Trees, Portuguese Conservation and Brazil’s Colonial Timber, Stanford University Press (Stanford, 2000).

Ross, Corey, ‘The Plantation Paradigm: Colonial Agronomy, African Farmers and the Global Cocoa Boom, 1870s-1940s’, Journal of Global History 9:1 (2014).

Rudel, Thomas, Diane Bates and Rafael Machinguiashi, ‘Ecologically Noble Amerindians? Cattle Ranching and Cash Cropping among Shuar and Colonists in Ecuador’, Latin American Research Review 37:1 (2002).

Sluyter, Andrew, 'The Ecological Origins and Consequences of Cattle Ranching in Sixteenth-Century New Spain', Geographical Review 86:2 (1996).

Soluri, John, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States (Austin, 2005), chapter 8: 'Banana Cultures in Comparative Perspective'.*

UNESCO Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Vail, Leroy, ‘Ecology and History: The Example of Eastern Zambia’, Journal of Southern African Studies 3 (1977).

*Sign into the Warwick Library catalogue to access the online version.