Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

Empire of Extinction: Russians and the North Pacific's Strange Beasts of the Sea, 1741-1867

Coming Soon
  • Shows that Russians were well aware of human causes of extinction before Lamarck's seminal publications
  • Demonstrates that science had ambivalent results for the Russian empire, unlike the British and French imperial powers
  • Narrates Russian implementation of effective conservation measures as early as 1802 based on assessments by natural historians, not just economic concerns

By: Ryan Tucker Jones (Author)

296 pages, 36 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press USA

Paperback | 2017 | #233406 | ISBN-13: 9780190670818
Available for pre-order: Due May 2017 Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $25/€23 approx
Hardback | Jul 2014 | #211594 | ISBN-13: 9780199343416
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £37.99 $47/€44 approx

About this book

In the second half of the eighteenth century, the Russian Empire-already the largest on earth-expanded its dominion onto the ocean. Through a series of government-sponsored voyages of discovery and the establishment of a private fur trade, Russians crossed and re-crossed the Bering Strait and the North Pacific Ocean, establishing colonies in Kamchatka and Alaska and exporting marine mammal furs to Europe and China. In the process they radically transformed the North Pacific, causing environmental catastrophe.

In one of the most hotly-contested imperial arenas of the day, the Russian empire organized a host of Siberian and Alaskan native peoples to rapaciously hunt for fur seals, sea otters, and other fur-bearing animals. The animals declined precipitously, and Steller's sea cow went extinct. This destruction captured the attention of natural historians who for the first time began to recognize the threat of species extinction. These experts drew upon Enlightenment and Romantic-era ideas about nature and imperialism but their ideas were refracted through Russian scientific culture and influenced by the region's unique ecology. Cosmopolitan scientific networks ensured the spread of their ideas throughout Europe. Heeding the advice of these scientific experts, Russian colonial governors began long-term management of marine mammal stocks and instituted some of the colonial world's most forward-thinking conservationist policies.

Highlighting the importance of the North Pacific in Russian imperial and global environmental history, Empire of Extinction focuses on the development of ideas about the natural world in a crucial location far from what has been considered the center of progressive environmental attitudes.

"Ryan Tucker Jones takes the environmental history of colonialism to new lands – and seas – in telling the story of the Russian Empire's quest for fur and other animal products in the North Pacific, from Kamchatka to Alaska's panhandle. It is a memorable tale of two syndromes, the relentless search for a fast ruble at the expense of sea otters, seals, and other marine mammals combined with the rueful recognition of what sustained slaughter meant, including rapid extinction of that gentle giant, Steller's sea cow. Empire of Extinction is simultaneously environmental history, imperial history, Russian history, and history of expeditionary science – all wrapped in a highly readable package."
– J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University


Introduction The Meanings of Steller and His Sea Cow

1. The Second Kamchatka Expedition and the Empires of Nature
2. Promyshlenniki, Siberians, Alaskans, and Catastrophic Change in an Island Ecosystem
3. Naturalists Plan a North Pacific Empire
4. Extinction and Empire on the Billings Expedition
5. Ordering Arctic Nature: Peter Simon Pallas, Thomas Pennant, and Imperial Natural History
6. Empire of Order

Conclusion Empire and Extinction

Write a review

There are currently no reviews for this product. Be the first to review this product!


Ryan Tucker Jones is Assistant Professor of History at Idaho State University.

Bestsellers in this subject

Ancient Woodland

NHBS Price: £84.99 $106/€98 approx

The Triumph of Seeds

NHBS Price: £10.99 $14/€13 approx

Nature and Power

NHBS Price: £21.99 $27/€25 approx

A Companion to Global Environmental History

Clearance price: £17.88 £32.50 (Save £14.62) $22/€21 approx

Harvesting the Biosphere

NHBS Price: £15.95 $20/€18 approx

VAT: GB 407 4846 44
NHBS Ltd is registered in England and Wales: 1875194