William Cronon's "Changes in the Land": Review.

Essay by irish_hoosierUniversity, Bachelor'sA, November 2005

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William Cronon sets out to explain why New England habitats changed as they did during the colonial period and how this was all a process of change. His thesis is to portray that the shift from Indian to European dominance in New England entailed important changes in the region's plant and animal communities. Cronon supports this thesis by providing the reader with contrasts of both the ecosystems and the economies in pre-colonial New England to those at the beginning of the 19th century. From the initial squandering of valuable resources to the ultimate ruin of many areas in New England, the European way of life, including its economy, certainly changed the new land of which it had become a part of. Cronon explains how much the landscape and the environment were radically changed by the arrival of the Europeans. He also argues that the shift from Indian to English domination in New England saw English property systems take control and the dominance of domesticated animals as well.

And finally, another argument suggested by Cronon reveals that the Industrial Revolution would transform New England ecology by opening up industries to urban centers and building canals to connect cities. Cronon's argument reveals that the change in New England's landscape and environment was not only brought on by the arrival of the Europeans but also made possible by the active involvement of the Indian people.

Cronon introduces the field of environmental history and talks about the evidence he used to put together this book: early travel accounts; colonial town, court, and legislative records; ecological data; and the landscape itself. In addition, he discusses some of the theoretical problems with doing environmental history, which he refers to as ecological history. He makes it clear that he is centrally interested in how Native Americans and...