The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord

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Yale University Press, 2004 - Nature - 311 pages
4 Reviews
An unprecedented look at how colonial farmers adapted to the challenges of New England's climate and soil and achieved a sustainable agricultural system. The farmers of colonial New England have been widely accused of farming extensively, neglecting manure, wearing out their land, and moving on. But did they? And if so, when and why? Brian Donahue offers an innovative, accessible, and authoritative history of the early farming practices of Concord, Massachusetts, and challenges the long-standing notion that colonial husbandry degraded the land. In fact, he argues, the Concord community of farmers achieved a remarkably successful and sustainable system of local production. Donahue describes in precise detail--using among other tools an innovative historical geographical information system (GIS) method--how land was settled and how mixed husbandry was developed in Concord. By reconstructing several farm neighborhoods and following them through many generations, he reveals the care with which farmers managed the land, soil, and water. He concludes that ecological degradation came to Concord only later, when nineteenth-century economic and social forces undercut the environmental balance that earlier colonial farmers had nurtured.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - BobWoodbury - LibraryThing

Remarkable because Donahue's farming experience informs his research and analysis so deeply -- aided by GIS and other useful tools. A great read! Read full review

Review: The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord

User Review  - David Bates - Goodreads

In The Great Meadow Brian Donahue sought to overturn William Cronon's interpretation of the degradation brought on by early colonial settlement. While not taking issue with Cronon's staring point ... Read full review


Introduction I
The Native Ecological System
The English Ecological System
The First Division and the Common Field System
The Second Division
Settling the East Quarter
The Ecological Structure of Colonial Farming
A Town of Limits
Beyond the Meadows
East Quarter Land Use by Deeds and Valuations 1749

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About the author (2004)

Brian Donahue is associate professor of American environmental studies on the Jack Meyerhoff Foundation, Brandeis University.

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