Series: New Approaches to the Americas
257 pages, no illustrations
A narration of the mutually mortal historical contest between humans and nature in Latin America. Covering a period that begins with Amerindian civilizations and concludes in the region's present urban agglomerations, the work offers an original synthesis of the current scholarship on Latin America's environmental history and argues that tropical nature played a central role in shaping the region's historical development. Human attitudes, populations, and appetites, from Aztec cannibalism to more contemporary forms of conspicuous consumption, figure prominently in the story. However, characters such as hookworms, whales, hurricanes, bananas, dirt, butterflies, guano, and fungi make more than cameo appearances. Recent scholarship has overturned many of our egocentric assumptions about humanity's role in history.
Seeing Latin America's environmental past from the perspective of many centuries illustrates that human civilizations, ancient and modern, have been simultaneously more powerful and more vulnerable than previously thought.
"[...] an important contribution to the subject of environmental studies."
- Contemporary Review
"Miller's work makes an indispensable contribution to the conceptualisation and feasibility of sustainability, one of the most relevant and urgent problems of our time, giving Latin America a central and strategic place in the discussion."
- Journal of Latin American Studies
"For years to come, studies of Latin American environmental history will have to begin with references to Shawn Miller's book."
-Alfred W. Crosby, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, History, and Geography, University of Texas at Austin
"Sailing over the last six centuries in just over two hundred pages, Shawn Miller presents readers with a magnificent panorama of the turbulent environmental history of Latin America. Specialists, students, and general readers will all find Miller's pages intellectually intriguing and often entertaining. A delightful book and an important story."
- J. R. McNeill, Georgetown University, author, Something New Under the Sun
Introduction: props and scenery
1. An old world before it was 'new'
2. Nature's conquests
3. The colonial balance sheet
4. Tropical determinism
5. Human determination
6. Asphyxiated habitats
7. Developing environmentalism
Epilogue: Cuba's latest revolution
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Shawn W. Miller is the author of Fruitless Trees: Portuguese Conservation and Brazil's Colonial Timber (2000), and has published on Latin America's environmental history in the Hispanic American Historical Review, Forest & Conservation History, and Colonial Latin American Historical Review.