Ecological Change in New England under Native Americans and Colonists

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Although the colonial history of New England has been thoroughly researched and taught across all levels of educational institutes across the United States, the study of its environmental history often takes a backseat to America’s complex and enthralling social and political history. This trend has been abating in recent decades, given that more Americans have taken an interest in their environment and conservation, and in response to this new demand the field of environmental history was initiated by historians like William Cronon, who explores the changes in the New England environment under the stewardship of Native Americans and European colonist in Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. Cronon’s work …show more content…
The popular view among the colonists regarding their deep ecological footprint was that it was furnished by an approving God, meaning that they could utilize this blessing as they saw fit. Using the land to farm and graze animals was in their view, “improving the land,” and thus another signifier that they held more of a right to own it, as opposed to the “lazier” Native Americans who tended to hunt and gather food more than the colonists. Cronon gives us good insight into the sound methodology that historians used to determine the environment at that point, from primary sources describing the environment or various phenomenon, to the presence of various local statutes dealing with the environment that hinted at the changing state of the colonial settlements and wilderness. From most accounts, it seems that most colonists were unaware of the complex relations that existed between them, Native Americans, and the environment. Cronon’s work meticulously details the chasm between the colonial and Native American outlooks on the environment and on each other. Europeans were grounded in a mercantile economy and judged the environment by the resources it afforded an aspiring entrepreneur who had to find a way to turn a profit and repay debts and other capital expenditures (20). Many letters sent back to the Old World by colonists detailed the abundance of flora
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