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Ecological Imperialism

The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900 - 1900

by Alfred Crosby

Ecological Imperialism argues that the displacement of the native peoples of the temperate zones of the world--North America, Australia, and New Zealand by European peoples was the result of the European plants and animals the invaders brought with them, and not just their superior weapons. Now in a new edition with a new preface, Crosby revisits his now-classic work.

Praise for Ecological Imperialism

"Crosby has unfolded with great power the wider biopolitics of our civilization." -- Nature

"The biological bases of radically changing historical ecosystems must never be forgotten--and Crosby has made them intelligible as well as memorable." -- Natural History

"Crosby argues his case with vigour, authority, and panache . . . 'Ecological Imperialism' could not ask for a more lucid and stylish exponent."--The Times Literary Supplement

Winner of the 1987 Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize awarded by Phi Beta Kappa
About Alfred Crosby

Quotes from Ecological Imperialism

"Between 1920 and 1930, well over 50 million Europeans migrated to the Neo-European lands overseas. That number amounts to approximately one-fifth of the entire population of Europe at the beginning of that period. Why such an enormous movement of peoples across such vast distances? Conditions in Europe provided a considerable push--population explosion and a resulting shortage of cultivable land, national rivalries, persecution of minorities--and the application of steam power to ocean and land travel certainly facilitated long distance migration. But what was the nature of the Neo-European pull? The attractions were many, of course, and they varied from place to place in these new-found lands. But underlying them all, and coloring and shaping them in ways such that a reasonable man might be persuaded to invest capital and even the lives of his family in Neo-European adventures, were factors perhaps best described as biogeographical."

"As elsewhere, horses thrived so famously in Australia that the Neo-Europeans forgot what a miracle it was to have mounts for next to nothing, and cursed the excess of their own good fortune. . . . We could go on at length about goats, dogs, cats, even camels, and go on further to point out that domesticated birds--chickens, for instance--prospered in the Neo- Europes, but the point has already been made: Old World livestock prospered in the Neo-Europes. In fact, they did amazingly better in the Neo-Europes than in their homelands-- a paradox."

"We cannot prove or disprove Martin's theory here, but only note that . . . it places the Amerindians, Aborigines, and Maori, on the one hand, and the European invaders, on the other, in a fresh and intellectually provocative relationship: not simply as adversaries, with the indigenes passive, the whites active, but as two waves of invaders of the same species, the first acting as the shock troops, clearing the way for the second wave, with its more complicated economies and greater numbers."

"The members of the portmanteau biota had at least the same advantage as had the first humans and their associated organisms that crossed into the New World from Eurasia: the advantage of moving into virgin territory and, with luck, leaving a lot of enemies behind. Back in the Old World, most particularly in the densely populated areas of civilization, many organisms had taken advantage of contiguity with humans and their plants and animals to become their parasites and pathogens. These freeloaders often were slower to emigrate to the Neo-Europes than were humans and the organisms that humans intentionally brought with them. For example, Europeans brought wheat to North America and created the first of their several wheat belts in the Delaware River valley in the eighteenth century where the plant thrived in the absence of its enemies. Then its old nemesis, the Hessian fly, unjustly blamed on George III's mercenaries, who supposedly brought it across the Atlantic in their straw bedding, arrived and obliged farmers of the valley to find a new staple."

Table of Contents of Ecological Imperialism

  1. Prologue
  2. Pangaea revisited, the Neolithic reconsidered
  3. The Norse and the Crusaders
  4. The Fortunate Isles
  5. Winds
  6. Within reach, beyond grasp
  7. Weeds
  8. Animals
  9. Ills
  10. New Zealand
  11. Explanation
  12. Conclusion

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