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Review: [untitled]

Author(s): Karen Ordahl Kupperman


Source: The Journal of American History, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Jun., 1984), pp. 109-110
Published by: Organization of American Historians
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1899845
Accessed: 16/10/2010 09:18

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Book Reviews 109

Southernhealthproblemswerecloselylinkedto southernpoverty.Cowdrey
arguesthat the regionhad only mediocreresourcesto beginwith and that
cultivationabusedthoseithad. The dominanceofsinglecropssuchas tobacco
or cottonexhaustedthe soil and exposedtheland to harmfultoxinsand para-
sites. The South sank to the nadirof its environmental historyduringthe
Gilded Age. Tenant farmingand sharecropping tightenedcotton's strangle-
hold. Lumbermencut much ofthe timber.Hunters,in searchoffood,sport,
andprofit, slaughteredthewildlife.
The twentiethcenturybroughtmanychanges,somebeneficial,someharm-
ful.Nothingwas moreimportant thanthefallofKingCotton,hastenedbyboll
weevils,New Deal farmpolicies,machinery, andtheshiftofproduction west-
ward. Largeownersbenefited,but thousandsof small farmersand tenants
were forcedoffthe land. Southernfarmersturnedincreasingly to soybeans,
peanuts,cattle,and poultry.The Progressives and the New Dealers initiated
significant changesin policytowardthe forests.Largecorporations, partic-
ularlypapercompanies,beganto growtreesas a renewablecrop.The emerging
South was, on the whole, a healthierplace. Scientificdiscoveries,public
healthpolicies,decreasingpoverty, andbetterlivingconditionsall contributed
to the controlof disease. Yet Cowdreyseems farfromcertainthatenviron-
mentalismhas sufficient political muscle to save the South froma wide
varietyofnew ecologicalthreats-strip-mining, oil spills,beacherosion,muti-
latedestuaries,dangerouspesticides,andthedumpingofchemicalwastes.
Fora surveyof such scope, Cowdreynaturallydrawsmost of his material
fromthe workof earlierscholars,but he has gone to the originalsourceson
such topicsas the game laws and MississippiRiverfloodcontrol.He makes
almost no use of census materialby which he mighthave quantifieddif-
ferencesbetweenthe Southand othersections.But the absenceof statistical
analysisdoes not detractfromthe book's overallmerit.It is characterized by
soundscholarshipand well-reasoned conclusions.Bestofall, it is a delightto
read-seriousin purposebutbrightened withflashesofwryhumor.
SYRACUSEUNIVERSITY NELSON M. BLAKE

Changesin theLand: Indians,Colonists,and theEcologyofNew England.By


WilliamCronon.(New York:Hill and Wang,1983.xiii + 241 pp. Notes,bib-
liographical
essay,andindex.Cloth,$15.95; paper,$6.95.)
Changesin the Land refutesthe old notionthat Europeans,arrivingin the
seventeenth centurywitha superiortechnology, developedand improvedthe
New Englandlandscapefarbeyondwhatthe Indianscould everhave accom-
plished.WilliamCrononbringstogetherthe workofmanyscholarsin a very
wide rangeof fieldsto arguethatthe importation of Europeanfarming tech-
when
niques,particularly appliedto Indiancropssuch as maize,destroyednot
onlythe resourcesofNew Englandbut also the land itself.The impoverish-
mentofthe Americanenvironment throughthe cuttingdown of forests,the
killingofmammals,the stripping oftheland's nutrientsand topsoil,and the
changesin waterwaysandrunoff patterns formthecoreofCronon'sbook.
Indianadaptationto the environment involvedconsiderablesophistication
and hardwork; seasonal mobilitywas crucialto it. Cronon's discussionof
Indiansubsistenceand the ecologicalunderstanding on whichit was based is
110 The JournalofAmerican History

excellent.Productsoftheirhuntingand farming werevaluableto Indiansfor


theirusefulness;accumulationforstatuswas not acceptableto them.There-
fore,the most fundamental contrastwhennativesmet Europeanslay in the
latter's conceptionof land and animals as commoditiesto be owned and
exchanged.As commodities,theybecame separatedfromtheirdirectuseful-
ness in the local economyand wereruthlesslyand heedlesslyexploitedand
squandered.Old Worldanimals,like theirhuman counterparts, took more
thantheyreturnedto the land. The detaileddescriptionof how the fertility
nurtured by Indianmethodswas squanderedformsa sinistermirrorimageto
theearlierdescription ofIndianrelationships to theland.
Crononis somewhattoo credulousin treating his colonialsources,manyof
whomarecomparing theirown experiencesto a poorlyremembered andpossi-
blyhighlyromanticized past. He treatsall thosesourcesas equallyusefuland
reliable.Moreover,he imputesall changeto humanagency.Crononpresentsa
fascinating discussionofhow microclimatescan be changedbydeforestation,
butwithoutanysense ofthedrasticclimatechangestakingplace throughout
theNorthern Hemisphere.
Changesin theLandis a synthesis, andthereinlies itsstrength. Much ofthe
book will be familiarto readers,and those who know the sources will
recognizeespeciallytheworkofNeal Salisburyand PeterThomas.The book's
greatcontribution is in bringingtogether workfromso manysourcesin a wide
rangeofdisciplinesandin focusingitthrough thelensofecologicalconcerns.
UNIVERSITYOF CONNECTICUT KARENORDAHL KUPPERMAN

ColonialAmerica.ByJerome R. Reich.(EnglewoodCliffs:Prentice-Hall,
1984.
and index.Paper,
table,notes,bibliography,
x + 307 pp. Maps, illustrations,
$15.95.)
This is a basic textbook,not a novel approachsuch as GaryB. Nash's Red,
Whiteand Black (1974) or a personaloverviewsuch as DarrettB. Rutman's
The MomingofAmerica(1971).Itsonlyrecentrivalis R. C. Simmons'ssome-
what similarbut much largerand more expensiveThe AmericanColonies
(1976). Colonial Americais a judiciousmixtureof old and new. The former
follows a familiarpath-the European backgroundand colonization,the
Indians (butno traditionalseparatechapteron geography)-thenproceedsto
Englandand the settlementofits variouscolonies,colonialgovernment, reli-
gion,immigration, theeconomy,thewarswithFrance,and so on. The latter,
reflectingmore recentinterests,intersperseschaptersor sectionson social
status, the family,demography,and so on. Generallythere is a relative
emphasison blacks, ordinaryfolk,women (ratheroverdoneat times), and
children.
Twenty-seven pithy,impressivelyfull,chaptersofabouttenpages (to each
ofwhichis appendeda bibliography ofwell-chosenbooksbutno articles)cover
the classic "Colonial America"course. In view of the usual divisionof the
course,the unsatisfactory crammingof the period 1763-1789 into the last
threechapters(thoughI like the conservativeinterpretation) may discourage
adoptions.However,the book mightwell be teamed with, say, E. James
Ferguson'sTheAmecan Revolution(1974).
The perilsof textbookwritingare usuallyhandledwell: the trickybalance
betweennarrativeand interpretation; the difficulties and
of simplification