William Cronon Changes In The Land Summary

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Throughout the book, Changes in the Land, by William Cronon, ecological changes in colonial England are discussed, analyzed, and elaborated. The first part of the book, Looking Backward, talks of many comparisons between Henry David Thoreau and his outlook on his Concord home to William Wood’s perspective of New England. Through these comparisons, the ecosystem of New England is described, along with how the Europeans and the Indians interact with each other, which in turn affected the eventual outcomes of the ecosystem. The second part of the book, The Ecological Transformation of New England, speaks of how the Indians were reserved with their land and resources, never using more than they needed nor more than they knew they had. However,…show more content…
He states, “My thesis is simple: the shift from Indian to European dominance in New England entailed important changes- well known to historians- in the ways these peoples organized their lives, but it is also involved fundamental reorganizations- less well known to historians- in the region’s plant and animal communities” (Cronon Preface). Many of these changes, however, contribute to the ecology in a negative way. This is due to not only the wildlife that surrounded them, but how the people lived (Cronon Preface). Cronon stated throughout the book that the Indians were preservative with their land and how they kept it. However, the Europeans took the Indians’ methods to increase soil nutrients and destroy plant diseases and pests, such as, “annual burnings” (Cronon 90) and drastically increased the intensity and speed at which they were performing it. As a result of this, there was a massive reduction in trees, animals, and farmland. Specifically, trees were at a loss, as they were used for many different things, such as, “ship’s masts” (Cronon 109). Due to the high demand for wood, much of the land was, “‘generally cleared’” (Cronon 113). This loss of trees and forests affected several other aspects of the environment. Considering that the elimination of trees increases the amount of runoff water in the area, places were being transformed into swamps. This in turn lead to diseases, bugs, irregular drainage patterns, and flooding (Cronon 125). The elimination of trees also, “aided in the reduction of edge-dwelling animal species”, affected the species composition, caused temperatures to fluctuate, made, “flooding [become] more common and stream levels...vary” (Cronon 126). Subsequently, the Europeans took over the Indians’ land, pushing them onto bare, dry, and worn out land, “probably a place where the soil had
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