Synopses & Reviews
By exploring the stages of ecological transformation that took place in New England as European settlers took control of the land, Carolyn Merchant develops a fresh approach to environmental history. Her analysis of how human communities are related to their environment opens a perspective that goes beyond overt changes in the landscape.
Merchant brings to light the dense network of links between the human realm of economic regimes, social structure, and gender relations, as they are conditioned by a dominant worldview, and the ecological realm of plant and animal life. Thus we see how the integration of the Indians with their natural world was shattered by Europeans who engaged in exhaustive methods of hunting, trapping, and logging for the market and in widespread subsistence farming. The resulting "colonial ecological revolution" was to hold sway until roughly the time of American independence, when the onset of industrialization and increasing urbanization brought about the "capitalist ecological revolution." By the late nineteenth century, Merchant argues, New England had become a society that viewed the whole ecosphere as an arena for human domination. One can see in New England a "mirror of the world," she says. What took place there between 1600 and 1850 was a greatly accelerated recapitulation of the evolutionary ecological changes that had occurred in Europe over a span of 2,500 years.
offers provocative insights into more than just New England ecology.
A powerful brief for a new ecological consciousness.
Robert A. Gross, The College of William and Mary
With the arrival of European explorers and settlers during the seventeenth century, Native American ways of life and the environment itself underwent radical alterations as human relationships to the land and ways of thinking about nature all changed. This colonial ecological revolution held sway until the nineteenth century, when New England's industrial production brought on a capitalist revolution that again remade the ecology, economy, and conceptions of nature in the region. In Ecological Revolutions
, Carolyn Merchant analyzes these two major transformations in the New England environment between 1600 and 1860.
In a preface to the second edition, Merchant introduces new ideas about narrating environmental change based on gender and the dialectics of transformation, while the revised epilogue situates New England in the context of twenty-first-century globalization and climate change. Merchant argues that past ways of relating to the land could become an inspiration for renewing resources and achieving sustainability in the future.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -362).
About the Author
Carolyn Merchant is professor of environmental history, philosophy, and ethics at the University of California, Berkeley. She is author of The Death of Nature, Reinventing Eden, and several other books on environmental history. She is a past president of the American Society for Environmental History and a recipient of the society's distinguished scholar award.