Creatures of Empire

Creatures of Empire : How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America

3.68 (167 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

When we think of the key figures of early American history, we think of explorers, or pilgrims, or Native Americans--not cattle, or goats, or swine. But as Virginia DeJohn Anderson reveals in this brilliantly original account of colonists in New England and the Chesapeake region, livestock played a vitally important role in the settling of the New World. Livestock, Anderson writes, were a central factor in the cultural clash between colonists and Indians as well as a driving force in the expansion west. By bringing livestock across the Atlantic, colonists believed that they provided the means to realize America's potential, a goal that Indians, who lacked domestic animals, had failed to accomplish. Settlers believed that Indians who learned to keep livestock would also advance along the path toward civility and Christian faith. But colonists failed to anticipate that the animals they hoped would convert Indians instead generated friction between the two people as Indians encountered free-ranging livestock at almost every turn, often trespassing in their cornfields.Moreover, concerned about feeding their growing populations and committed to a style of husbandry that required far more space than they had expected, colonists could see no alternative but to appropriate Indian land. This created tensions that reached the boiling point with King Philip's War and Bacon's Rebellion. And it established a pattern that would repeat time and again over the next two centuries. A stunning account that presents our history in a truly new light, Creatures of Empire restores a vital element of our past, illuminating one of the great forces of colonization and the expansion westward.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 164 x 236 x 26mm | 662.26g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 15 halftones, 2 maps
  • 0195158601
  • 9780195158601

Review quote

"A most original, gracefully written, and thoroughly fascinating exploration of Colonial history."--Michael Kenney, Boston Globe"An engaging study of relations among livestock, English colonists, and Algonquian-speaking peoples in two 17th-century settings: New England and the eastern Chesapeake Bay."--Chronicle of Higher Education"Long before Mrs. O'Leary's fabled cow, European domestic animals were shaping American history; the introduction of Spanish horses is only the start of an intriguing story. Creatures of Empire--wonderfully researched and gracefully written--explores the complex interactions between Native Americans, English settlers, and domestic animals. Virginia Anderson's fine new book is especially provocative in explaining the impact of foreign livestock on Indian lands and lives. Like Alfred Crosby and William Cronon, she helps us to understand wandering cattle and rooting swine not as bit players, but as major actors in the colonial American drama." --Peter H. Wood, Duke University"Beautifully written, with great wit as well as great insight, Creatures of Empire opens a genuinely fresh perspective on the ecological and cultural development of North America. Thanks to Virginia Anderson, we will never again think about the historical role of domestic animals in quite the same way."--Daniel K. Richter, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania"As Virginia DeJohn Anderson convincingly shows, livestock 'incapable of making plans' repeatedly forced both English settlers and native peoples to change their plans and their behavior. This book will change the way historians understand the quotidian dynamics of English colonization in North America." --Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692"This fine book delivers on all counts. Anderson deftly moves beyond standard environmental histories into new and richer territory. This book is a well-researched, well-written, and powerfully synthetic study of an intriguing facet of early American history."--The Journal of Southern History"Provocative.... Anderson richly details Native Americans' and colonists' competing conceptions of nature, land use, and property rights and settlers' domesticated and feral livestock, which provided the pretext for lethal conflicts between the English and Native Americans.... Scholars and interested lay readers will enjoy Anderson's lively, readable narrative. Recommended for academic and public libraries."--Library Journalshow more

About Virginia DeJohn Anderson

Virginia DeJohn Anderson is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is the author of New England's Generation and co-author (with David Goldfield, et al.) of The American Journey: A History of the United States.show more

Rating details

167 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 20% (33)
4 41% (69)
3 28% (47)
2 9% (15)
1 2% (3)
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