Natural Selection and Alfred W. Crosby

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Alfred W. Crosby’s book Ecological Imperialism explores the beginning of European control in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and South America. The Prologue of Crosby’s book questions the domination of these Neo-Europes. Was the European success due to their organization and technology? Perhaps simple biological factors are responsible. The idea of one land mass, or Pangaea, is depicted in Crosby’s first chapter. When the mass began to split and divide into individual continents the plants, animals, and humans were separated by large bodies of water. Development was diluted into separate regions causing a strain on ecological growth. Crosby introduces the thought of the dangerous contact settlers would have on an untouched land when he discusses the exploration after the Ice Age. Hunting until extinction, waste, and disease could rapidly change an entire ecosystem. Portuguese settlers were determined to settle Porto Santo Island in the 1400s. An unfortunate decision to introduce rabbits into the uninhabited environment would prove to be the settler’s demise. On the other hand, Spanish invaders showed the Canaries that complete domination was possible through success in crops and livestock while unintentionally killing local peoples through the spread of diseases. Seen in chapter five, the wind played a role in European imperialism. Portuguese sailors learned to sail around the wind. Because the sailors were quick to learn the winds, trade became easier and more efficient. Even so, imperialists could not conquer all lands. Some climates were not suitable for Europeans and other lands were previously and heavily settled. The chapter, “Within Reach, Beyond Grasp”, explores the idea of European determination versus the reality of domination. The chapter titled “Weeds” illustrates another variable of European power.

Crosby explains, “The weeds, like skin transplants placed over broad areas of abraded and burned flesh, aided in...
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