CBR13Bingo – Landscape
A second read through. This is one of those academic texts that can actually make you want to be an academic. It’s a wonderfully argued book, that’s probably got some reasonable detractors who I can’t or won’t include here, but that makes a clear argument, demonstrates the use of evidence to support that argument, and effectively guides you through how the evidence argues for what William Cronon says it does, and helps you to understand what the evidence even is.
So basically, using both written records and archaeological evidence, William Cronon attempts to piece together a clear understanding of what the landscape of New England looked like before the English colonists arrived in 1620, and then what changes it went through after. The result is either less obvious than you might imagine, or less obvious that you’d be able to imagine had this book and books like it not come out to help us better understand. The false perception of the American continent is that it was an untouched paradise. For the Puritans, this was often articulated as a literal paradise, as in the Garden of Eden, with Native Americans as literal devils haunting the land. In more political terms, the Native Americans were not actually seen as stewards of the land, because they were not using it for the same reasons English colonists would have used it or planned to use it. Hunting was seen strictly as a leisurely pursuit or a game, so hunting being a huge part of the food gathering for the Native American groups was seen as time-wasting. That men were the primary hunters meant that the English saw them as lazy and effeminate, in that they didn’t provide for their families, while the women did all the work. This might actually also be partly true, if labor division between men and women were not equal, but that’s not the argument being made. Instead, this “laziness” was one of the many pretexts the English used to remove the land from Native American control. What was also not understood, and this misunderstanding may very well have been intentional, was that the forest maintenance and the hunting maintenance were a much more controlled and involved process. There was a kind of cultivation of hunting that happened. Regardless, these are just a few of the examples that demonstrate how a failure to understand and certainly a failure to want to understand created political pretexts that the colonists exploited.