. Reflect on environmental perspective adopted by Crosby
Steppe Climate: In his book, Crosby opines that the number of people of both the old and new worlds did not vary that much. He gives an example of the population by comparing that in the central Mexican valley and the one in the Yangzi valley. He points out the areas similar to those were many and even some of them stretching extensively toward the eastern hemisphere than in the western. As Crosby puts it, the fact the American grassland areas were not very well adapted to the steppe climate, the density of people in a kilometer square were lower when compared to the Old World grasslands which could support cereals such as barley, wheat and sorghum.
Crosby is relentless in his environmental view where he says that the people in the areas with unfavorable climate were determined by the extent of diseases,”…densities in hot, wet lands of the Americas were…about the character and the geographical distribution of diseases and crops…” (Pg 120) In the moderate highlands, the main factors that decimated the population were diseases such as pneumonia, measles and small pox whereas in the harsh lowlands, the population density was decimated.”…decline of Amerindians of the hot, wet, coastal lowlands unrecorded but extreme.” (124)
In the book, Changes in the land, William Cronon argues that the Indians were the ones who were responsible for the landscape shaping and once the European conquered them and took over the ownership of the property, the natural environmental balance was adversely affected. The Indians would burn vast portions twice a year (in the spring and fall). Moreover, the Indians viewed ownership as anything that has been hand-made only and therefore land ownership wasn’t recognized. However, once the Europeans arrived, they destroyed the older forest and introduced a new one complete with exotic grasses and crops and their view about the land ownership was contrary to that of the natives since they saw as a God given duty to develop the land.
Q2. Does environmental history offer a new perspective?
There is so much perspective on the colonial American history that is offered by the environmental history. There were numerous diseases that came with the Europeans and they decimated the native population from a seventy-thousand population to just twelve thousand people. The implication of this was that the left native population could not utilize the land could no longer be in way like before.
With the colonization of the land by the colonialists, they tampered with the use of the land according to the view point of the natives who saw the usage of the land as a source of hunting but contrary, the European saw it as a source of crops. The natives viewed ownership as what could be made by ones own hands but upon the arrival of the colonialists, with them came items that could be swapped for things like metal tools and the consequence was that reputation was got from the owning of specific items. Compared to before, such items did not amount to anything and therefore prestige could not be obtained.
Q3. Does it suggest new motivations for Europeans colonization efforts?
The Amerindians in the harsh coastal lowlands that were hot and wet were almost wiped out by the climate and other climate-related diseases such as pneumonia. Since there were the chief sources of labor to the masters, other means had to been resorted and therefore this gave the colonialists new motivations for colonizing.”…as their lowland Amerindian subjects died off, Europeans reached out to the Bahamas, Nicaragua and the backlands of their Brazilian settlements for slaves…” (Crosby, 125)
After the deaths of the Amerindians, the European colonizers resorted to other means of satisfying the labor. They wanted the laborers who would build the tend to the sugar plantations in Jamaica and to the tobacco plantations in Maryland.”… new masters of the American lowlands tried to persuade Europeans to volunteer for work…convicts were conscripted and some unfortunates were simply kidnapped…”(pg 125) Christopher Columbus opened the doors to colonization when he initiated the transoceanic movement and the fact that the “land was left ‘unused’ an offense to God, that land had to be put to use again (Alfred) .The need for laborers in the tropical crops plantations such as indigo, cotton, tobacco and sugar compelled the Spanish monarchy to order the supply of slaves directly from Africa and were taken to Antilles and this was as a result of the deaths of the aboriginal populations that had been wiped out by the hot and wet tropics.
The laborers of the Europeans were greatly decimated by the epidemics and therefore the masters had to resort to other means from places out of hold of the epidemics and those were their motivations to conquer new land not only out of their new areas but also in their motherlands.”…that made it profitable to reach beyond the epidemic’s farthest ravages to obtain slaves from northern and especially Eastern Europe…the return of the plague in the fourteenth century stimulated the slave trade between southern Europe, Black Sea, and black Africa.”(William)There was a ready market for crops that grew in the tropics and it compelled the masters to seek laborers from black Africa,”…demand for tropical crops such as sugar was the driving economic force that drove Atlantic migration.”(pg 127)
Alfred, Crosby. “Infectious Diseases and the Demography of the Atlantic Peoples.” Journal of World History (1991): 119-133.
William, Cronon. Changes in the Land: Indians,and the ecology of New England. New York: Hill Wang, 2003.