Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land: An Environmental History of Africa, 1800-1990

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9780852557747: Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land: An Environmental History of Africa, 1800-1990
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This text confronts the alarm about degradation of Africa's natural and human resources by examining two centuries of historical evidence of environmental change. It presents African landscapes as created by humans, not as some idealized notion of Eden. Key topics covered include: the effects of population growth; disease; agricultural change; the state of natural resources; and the role of the state in how Africans have managed and changed their own landscapes. North America: Heinemann

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About the Author:

James C. McCann is Professor of History and director of the African Studies Center at Boston University.


In a subtle way, his work shows that the degradation narratives so beloved of environmentalists when pleading for money are wrong without devaluing the reality of environmental change and its effects on the peoples of Africa. As a book, McCann's work leaves one wanting more: more detail, more case studies, more pages, more master narrative. One wants ammunition to counter the arguments advanced by McNeill, Crosby, Diamond and even Curtin and Thornton about the ways that African environments limited the potential for social development in Africa. McCann's answer, the only valid one, gives cold comfort; the relationship between humans and environment is a contingent and specific one. Neither the degradation narrative of environmental activists nor the nurturing narrative promoted by Fairhead and Leach capture this ambiguous relationship; only the detailed examination of McCann's 'signs of the past' can provide a clue to Africa's environmental future as past. - Gregory H. Maddox in JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORY In recent years, Africa's environmental history has begun to emerge as another area of innovation with important implications for how we view the broader human past ... draws on the best of this new research to provide a concise synthesis of the historical development of the African landscape. The central argument of this crisply-written book is that, far from being unchanging and primordial, African landscapes are the product of human action. - John Parker in ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW The book's greatest strength is its general accessibility - ideal for undergraduates... - Helen Tilley in JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY

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