The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early Modern World

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University of California Press, May 15, 2003 - Nature - 696 pages
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It was the age of exploration, the age of empire and conquest, and human beings were extending their reach—and their numbers—as never before. In the process, they were intervening in the world's natural environment in equally unprecedented and dramatic ways. A sweeping work of environmental history, The Unending Frontier offers a truly global perspective on the profound impact of humanity on the natural world in the early modern period.

John F. Richards identifies four broadly shared historical processes that speeded environmental change from roughly 1500 to 1800 c.e.: intensified human land use along settlement frontiers; biological invasions; commercial hunting of wildlife; and problems of energy scarcity. The Unending Frontier considers each of these trends in a series of case studies, sometimes of a particular place, such as Tokugawa Japan and early modern England and China, sometimes of a particular activity, such as the fur trade in North America and Russia, cod fishing in the North Atlantic, and whaling in the Arctic. Throughout, Richards shows how humans—whether clearing forests or draining wetlands, transporting bacteria, insects, and livestock; hunting species to extinction, or reshaping landscapes—altered the material well-being of the natural world along with their own.
 

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Contents

The Early Modern World
17
Climate and Early Modern World Environmental History
58
Eurasia and Africa
87
Pioneer Settlement on Taiwan
89
Internal Frontiers and Intensified Land Use in China
112
Ecological Strategies in Tokugawa Japan
148
Landscape Change and Energy Transformation in the British Isles
193
Frontier Settlement in Russia
242
Ranching Mining and Settlement Frontiers in Colonial Mexico
334
Sugar and Cattle in Portuguese Brazil
377
Landscapes of Sugar in the Antilles
412
Furs and Deerskins in Eastern North America
463
The Hunt for Furs in Siberia
517
Cod and the New World Fisheries
547
Whales and Walruses in the Northern Oceans
574
Conclusion
617

Wildlife and Livestock in South Africa
274
The Americas
307
The Columbian Exchange The West Indies
309
BIBLIOGRAPHY
623
INDEX
661
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About the author (2003)

John F. Richards is Professor of History at Duke University. He is the author of The Mughal Empire (1993) and Mughal Administration in Golconda (1975) and the editor of Land, Property and the Environment (2001). He is coeditor of World Deforestation in the Twentieth Century (1988) and Global Deforestation and the Nineteenth-Century World Economy (1983).

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