Natures Past

The Environment and Human History
Edited by Paolo Squatriti
A global examination of how human communities have interacted with different kinds of natural environments through their cultural, social and economic activities


Natures Past seeks to lend some historical depth to current debates about man-made modifications of ecological processes and systems and also to explore the global dimensions of the dynamic relationships natural environments establish with people. The ten essays in Natures Past discuss the diverse approaches to environmental history, demonstrating that significant environmental change is not a modern invention and people have long been transforming their natural surroundings, often in unintended ways. Natures Past also shows that humans have not always had antagonistic relationships with nature but have also successfully found new, stable relationships with the natures they inhabit. The essays, comprised of contributions by anthropologists, foresters, historians, and literary scholars, discuss malaria-bearing mosquitoes, Maine lobster fishing, Bornean durian husbandry, and American lawn mowing, among other things, and suggest how ecology, culture, and market interact to change the fate, and the value, of nature in each context.

Cover Image Credit: Mississippi River Delta, courtesy of USGS National Center for EROS and NASA Landsat Project Science Office. Marsden Hartley print, Study for Bavarian Alps Series (accession number 1955/2.2), Landscape, China (accession number 1991/2.39), and Ramayana manuscript page: Rama kills the deer (accession number 1964/2.111), and Faucet with  peacock adornment (accession number 1959/1.114) provided by The University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Paolo Squatriti is Associate Professor of History and Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. His previous books are: Working with Water in Medieval Europe: Technology and Resource-Use and Water and Society in Early Medieval Italy AD 400-1000.

Praise / Awards

  • "An elegant collection of essays on environmental history by its finest scholars, demonstrating global, chronological, and interdisciplinary range."
    —J. Donald Hughes, John Evans Distinguished Professor, Department of History, University of Denver

  • "With topics ranging from the metabolism of medieval cities to recent management trends in the Maine lobster industry, Natures Past is a collection of ten essays that expertly illustrates the cosmopolitan character, the interdisciplinary approaches, and the widely varying subject matter that characterize the subdiscipline of environmental history."
    —William H. TeBrake, Department of History, University of Maine

Look Inside


List of Illustrations     ix

Introduction: Natures Past and Present Environmental Histories
Paolo Squatriti     1

I Distribution Fights, Coordination Games, and Lobster Management
James Acheson     16

II Fruit Trees and Family Trees in an Anthropogenic Forest: Ethics of Access, Property Zones, and Environmental Change in Indonesia
Nancy Lee Peluso     54

III Histories of Colonialism and Forestry in India
K. Sivaramakrishnan     103

IV Revolutionary Mosquitoes of the Atlantic World: Malaria and Independence in the United States of America
J. R. McNeill     145

V Sustainable Development on China's Frontier
Peter C. Perdue     172

VI Naming the Stranger: Maize's Journey to Africa
James C. McCann     198

VII Two Landscapes, Two Stories: Anglo-Saxon England and the United States
Nicholas Howe     214

VIII In Search of Natural Identity: Alpine Landscapes and the Reconstruction of the Swiss Nation
Oliver Zimmer     240

IX Lawn-o-Rama: The Commodifications of Landscape in Postwar America
Ted Steinberg     270

X Footprint Metaphor and Metabolic Realities: Environmental Impacts of Medieval European Cities
Richard C. Hoffman     288

Bibliography     327
Contributors     357

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 368pp.
  • 5 maps, 2 B&W photos, 2 figures, 5 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06960-6

Add to Cart
  • $41.95 U.S.



  • anthropology, history, Maine lobster fishing, Bornean durian husbandry, American lawn mowing, political science, environmental studies, nature, environment, ecology, economy, pop culture, lobsters, fruit trees, colonialism, India, mosquitoes, malaria, Swiss, Alpine, essays