Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900

  • Cites ecological reasons for success of European expansion, including movement of flora and fauna
  • The preface to the second edition revisits and evaluates the original thesis
  • Argues that Europeans' displacement of native peoples was more a matter of biology than military conquest

Series: Canto Classics

By: Alfred W Crosby(Author)

368 pages, 27 b/w illustrations and b/w maps

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Oct 2015 | Edition: 2 | #224005 | ISBN-13: 9781107569874
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £12.99 $17/€14 approx

About this book

People of European descent form the bulk of the population in most of the temperate zones of the world – North America, Australia and New Zealand. The military successes of European imperialism are easy to explain; in many cases they were a matter of firearms against spears. But as Alfred Crosby maintains in this highly original and fascinating book, the Europeans' displacement and replacement of the native peoples in the temperate zones was more a matter of biology than of military conquest. European organisms had certain decisive advantages over their New World and Australian counterparts. The spread of European disease, flora and fauna went hand in hand with the growth of populations. Consequently, these imperialists became proprietors of the most important agricultural lands in the world. In the second edition, Crosby revisits his now classic work and again evaluates the global historical importance of European ecological expansion.

Reviews of the first edition:

"Crosby has unfolded with great power the wider biopolitics of our civilization."

"[This] book is important, and required reading for politicians worldwide [...] Nuclear war may be spectacular and a valid focus for our exertions, but ecological insouciance is even more dangerous because it is unspectacular, and it merits efforts to combat it as strenuous and urgent."
The Guardian

"The biological bases of radically changing historical ecosystems must never be forgotten – and Crosby has made them intelligible as well as memorable."
Natural History

"Crosby argues his case with vigour, authority and panache, summoning up examples and illustrations that are often as startling in their character as in their implications. Ecological Imperialism could not ask for a more lucid and stylish exponent."
The Times Literary Supplement

"In telling his very readable story, Mr Crosby combines a historian's taste for colorful detail with a scientist's hunger for unifying and testable generalization [...] [He] shows that there is more to history than kings and battles, and more to ecology than fruits and nuts."
The Wall Street Journal


1. Prologue
2. Pangaea revisited, the Neolithic reconsidered
3. The Norse and the Crusaders
4. The Fortunate Isles
5. Winds
6. Within reach, beyond grasp
7. Weeds
8. Animals
9. Ills
10. New Zealand
11. Explanations
12. Conclusion

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