The traditional image of New Zealand is one of verdant landscapes with sheep grazing on lush green pastures. Yet this landscape is almost entirely an artificial creation. As Britain became increasingly reliant on its overseas territories for supplies of food and raw material, so all over the Empire indigenous plants were replaced with English grasses to provide the worked up products of pasture – meat, butter, cheese, wool, and hides. In New Zealand this process was carried to an extreme, with forest cleared and swamps drained. How, why and with what consequences did the transformation of New Zealand into these empires of grass occur? Seeds of Empire provides both an exciting appraisal of New Zealand's environmental history and a long overdue exploration of the significance of grass in the processes of sowing empire.
"Starting with a seemingly simple question – How did New Zealand come to be covered in exotic grasses? – Seeds of Empire unfolds a fascinating history with a pertinence far beyond New Zealand. It is the story not just of a country transformed by a 'productivist paradigm' and a belief in a moral landscape that suppressed biodiversity: it also shows how such changes are inseparable from larger transformations in global power and exchange. This interdisciplinary volume, in tracing the movement of people, plants, ideas, technologies and the networks they created, make a convincing case that the British Empire was built on grasses and the sea."
– Professor Richard White, Stanford University
Terminology, Maori language conventions, place names and measurements
Figures and Tables
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The contours of transformation
Chapter 3: Learning about the environment in early colonial New Zealand
Chapter 4: Pioneer grassland farming: pragmatism, innovation and experimentation
Chapter 5: Pastoralism and the transformation of the open grasslands
Chapter 6: Mobilising capital and trade
Chapter 7: The grass seed trade
Chapter 8: Flows of agricultural information
Chapter 9: The farmer, science and the state in New Zealand
Chapter 10: Remaking the grasslands: the 1920s and 1930s
Chapter 11: Conclusion
Appendix 1: Common and formal names of plants
Appendix 2: Short biographies of twelve pasture plants
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Tom Brooking is Professor of History at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is co-editor (with Eric Pawson) of Environmental Histories of New Zealand (2002) and is a member of the Council of the Agricultural History Society.
Eric Pawson is Professor of Geography at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He chaired the Advisory Committee for the New Zeland Historical Atlas. In 2007 he received the Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Medal.