Spring 2008

Ecological Imperialism

Listed in: History, as HIST-07


Jill R. Payne (Section 01)


How extensive were the environmental transformations initiated by the 'Age of Discovery'? This course considers the ecological impact of the spread of European influence across the globe. We explore the historical background to significant pathogen, vegetable and animal introductions to the Americas and Australasia: smallpox, wheat, cats and goats, as well as the degree to which the 'Old World' was in turn affected by 'New World' ecological immigrants such as maize and the potato. We analyze the long-term socio-economic impacts of these changes in bio-diversity and discuss their importance as catalysts for emergent ideas about preservation, conservation, and, ultimately, environmentalism. We think about the degree to which indigenous Americans and Australians influenced thinking about the natural world, and, in conclusion, we examine responses to more recent biological 'invasions' (for instance, North American gray squirrels in Britain), weighing up what these can perhaps tell us about contemporary ideas of 'the alien' and 'the other.' Second semester. Visiting Professor Payne.