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History Book Review: Changes in the Land Book Prompt (Book Review Sample)


The task was to analyze the book by William Cronon’s “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England” and provide insights on how Colonial New England evolved as a result of shifting from Indian dominance to European dominance.









Changes in the Land Book Prompt







William Cronon’s “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England” is a narrative that gives insights on how Colonial New England evolved as a result of shifting from Indian dominance to European dominance. He explains in detail the changes that occurred to the landscape of New England after Europeans arrival and how such changes affected Native Americans in terms of Agriculture, hunting, and land usage.

In his thesis, "the shift from Indian to European dominance in New England entailed important changes well known to historians in the ways the people organized their lives, but it also involved fundamental reorganizations less well known to historians” (Cronon, 72). With this thesis, he set to identify the changes and the primary reasons as to why they occurred and also explain the consequences of dominance shifting from native Indians and Americans to Europeans. The thesis also allowed him to explore the ecological and economic impacts of the shift, such as land use and property ownership changes respectively. The paper will analyse William Cronon’s thesis, use his thesis to explore ways in which the New England changed in the early 19th Century and the long term consequences of environmental changes.

The fist change that Cronon analyses is the evident environmental changes that occurred when Native Americans lands was intruded by Europeans to settle their families. He compares the present environment after European arrival with the previous one. In his comparison, he uses Henry David Thoreau literature, Walden to make inferences of the condition of the environment as there was in the 1800s. Walden is about the effect of man on nature, so it provides Cronon with a solid evidence on the ecological impacts of Europeans in New England. Cronon infers from Walden by Thoreau statement that “When I consider that the nobler animals have been exterminated here,-the cougar, panther, lynx, wolverine, wolf, bear, moose, deer, the beaver, the turkey, etc., etc.,-I cannot but feel as if I lived in a tamed, and, as it were, emasculated country” (Cronon, 21). Thoreau’s account paves way for Cronon to give his ecological perspective by giving examples of indigenous animals that were threaten by extinction because of the arrival of new European domestic animals. He states that “a changed landscape meant a loss of wildness and virility that was ultimately spiritual in its import, a sign of declension in both nature and humanity” (Cronon, 4).

In his comparison he uses signs such as colonial towns and ecological data to provide evidence on how the environment was after the arrival of the Europeans. Through this, he offers a solid opinion on how he feels about the changes that brought about by the Europeans on New England and how these changes forced the Native Americans to change their interaction with the land. Cronon states that European domestic animals were a major player in colonization of New England. He states that the colonists owned animals such as Oxen and horses that assisted in various agricultural production processes that gave them an upper hand in production. He states for this reason native Indians began domesticating European livestock (Cronon, 133). Europeans took advantage of native’s scarcity of commodities and food to trade food for their lands “…turn to the only major commodity they had left: their land” (Cronon, 103). It resulted into Native Americans losing their lands to the European settlers. Cronon express that deportation of natives created hostile conditions in the south of New England where they were settled as the instances for intertribal warfare among themselves and attacks by the European colonists escalated. The hostile environment caused the most vulnerable population, the Indians to diminish immensely forcing them to live in a densely populated condition with high instances of disease within their settlements.

Cronon argues that the primary reason as to why the changes in the land use had to occur was because of the incompatibility in Europeans and native Indians in how land was owned and used in New England (Cronon, 89). Cronon explains that before the arrival of Europeans the use of land in New England was communal, any tribe was allowed to work on the land provided the land was free and there was an agreement (Cronon, 90). Such was the culture of native Indian community and tribes. However, colonists arrived with a new system where land ownership was given to individuals and the owner given full rights to the land. With the new rule, Europeans marked their territories as a sign of proprietorship.

Indians also viewed the land differently in terms of agriculture and production. To them, agricultural land was not owned but used by the community according to the need. For instance, one would prepare the land and leave for another person to use when the other parson seem to have a “greater” need. Such agricultural practices were revoked when the colonists arrived. Furthermore, Indians used fire as a tool for land clearing through burning of the vegetation to prepare the lands for the next season of production. They used fire because it provided “minimal” damage to the soil and it also provided a faster way to clear vast lands in the shortest time possible. When Europeans arrived, they changed all those practices to those that favored them. Such actions by Europeans formed the foundation for practical modifications w...

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