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The Coverage of Nature and the Environment in Modern European History Textbooks with a Focus on the Industrial Revolution and Colonialism

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Lee, Jaehyun
Term Paper, AP European History Class, June 2010

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Definition
II.1 Terminology
II.2 Time and Place Setting
III. Method of Study
III.1 Goal and Subject of Coverage
III.2 General Outline of Approach
III.3 Content Source
IV. History and Textbooks
V. General Timeline
VI. Environmental History in Europe
VI.1 Background Summary
VI.1.1 General Introduction
VI.1.2 Military Motives
VI.1.3 Sources of Energy
VI.1.4 Agricultural Revolution
VI.1.5 Demographic Change and Urbanization
VI.2 Coverage in Textbooks
VI.2.1 The Western Heritage
VI.2.2 A History of Modern Europe
VI.3 Analysis Chart
VII. European Environmental Impact on the Colonies
VII.1 Background Summary
VII.1.1 Definition and Layout
VII.1.2 Deforestation
VII.1.3 Cash Cropping
VII.1.4 Mining
VII.1.4 Diseases
VII.1.4 Extinction of Species
VII.2 Coverage in Textbooks
VII.2.1 The Western Heritage
VII.2.2 A History of Modern Europe
VII.3 Analysis Chart
VIII. Conclusion
VIII.1 Comparison of Sources
VIII.2 General Conclusion
Reference List

I. Introduction
            Throughout history, human activity has changed the environment in which we inhabit. In turn, the environment affects our daily lives and its changes are reflected in our way of life. The current threats posed by environmental destruction and the breakdown of ecological balance were also results of human activity. Their roots go far back into history, dating back to the era of colonization and industrial revolution. The environmental impact left by such quests for wealth and power presents us with great challenges and are a crucial part in our understanding of the world. Thus, this paper seeks to find the portrayal of the environment and explanation of the process of human acts that has led the environment to where it stands in the current day.

II. Definition

II.1 Terminology
            The term "environment" that is subject to analysis in this paper refers to physical environment. Thus, "environment" in this paper refers to the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival (1).

II.2 Time and Place Setting
            As this paper deals with the portrayal of the environment in Modern European History textbooks, the time frame for this paper will be from the beginning of the 16th century to the present day.
            As for the scope of physical area that will be subjected to analysis throughout this paper, Europe for the purpose of this paper will include all nations in the Eurasian continent west of the Ural Mountains. To be more specific, Russia will be included as Europe and Turkey excluded for the purpose of this paper.

III. Method of Study

III.1 Goal and Subject of Coverage
            The object of this paper is to review and analyze the portrayal of the environment in relation to major events, or phenomena, in Modern European History. For the purpose of this paper, the analysis will be divided in two; impact on Europe and that on the colonies.

III.1.1 Impact on Europe
-       Advancements in Agricultural Technology: The Agricultural Revolution and the Green Revolution; the revolutionary advancement in biological technology that enabled the production of genetically modified products and enhanced chemical products to further realize human interests. This paper seeks to find out how different encyclopedias portrayed these important moments in history differently, and also attempts to find the link between the background of the source and the way it portrayed the event.
-       The First and Second Industrial Revolution
-       Urbanization: A trend formed as a result of the industrial revolution in which large groups of the population migrated to urban areas and led to the formation of large urban areas.

III.1.2 Colonialism and Imperialism of Major European Powers during the 18th to 20th Centuries
-       Cash Cropping, Exploitation of Resources
-       Exchange of Species and Diseases

III.2 General Outline of Approach
            Due to the vast amount of content in Modern European History books - some going over one thousand pages - keywords and reference material were utilized to facilitate the study. First, a review of the index pages was made and any keywords with possible relevance to the environment were marked. Second, the marked keywords were examined and re-selected to include only the material relevant to any of the preselected four phenomena. Third, each of the pages pertaining to the selected keywords was reviewed and analyzed to provide the content basis for this paper. However, additional searches were also made to search for material not found in the index pages.

III.3 Content Source
            For the purpose of this paper, two major publications on Modern European History were analyzed. The two publications are as follows :

      A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present, Third Edition
      John Merriman, Yale University
      W. W. Norton & Company

      The Western Heritage ?Volume C: Since 1789, Eighth Edition
      Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner
      Pearson Prentice Hall

IV. History and Textbooks
            History, taking from its rather broad definition, is a chronological record of significant events. It is worthy to notice that the definition does not limit history to a matter simply between different human beings. As such, the physical environment that affects and is affected by human activities belong in the scope of coverage in the study of history,
            Historical textbooks exist to provide students with a guideline in understanding past events. However, as no publication can be perfectly balanced, textbooks are not flawless. As a matter of fact, textbooks are oftentimes not fair or exact in their portrayal of previous events. Many believe historical textbooks to be a result of competition between powerful groups. Some go even further to assert that it is the compilation of interpretations on previous events based upon the cultural, political, and ideological beliefs of the dominant group during the period of its writing. Such nature of textbooks has made it the subject of countless dispute and conflict.
            Textbooks play a very significant role in shaping the perspective and belief system of the young. As the young will grow up to wield great influences to the society and constitute its main sector, the content and direction of textbooks can form the next dominating line of thought of a society or state.
            Moreover, textbooks contain great authority. Whereas other reference material is subject to choice and critical analysis, textbooks have a tendency to be accepted as the whole and balanced truth. Students rarely cast doubts as to the legitimacy or justifiability of the portrayals given in textbooks due to the gullible nature of youth, and thus an unbalanced textbook can create distorted views to dominate the minds of an entire generation of the population.
            Therefore, it is necessary for textbooks to be given the best of efforts to remain balanced and show both sides of the story. It is also advisable that they leave the formation of a viewpoint to the readers rather than to enforce pre-decided perspectives on the readers.
            Along these lines, this paper deals with two American textbooks on modern European history. Although the fact that these textbooks are not about the United States may add to their objectivity, it is still very likely that they will reveal areas of imbalance and room for improvement. It is the objective of this paper to reveal such areas belonging to the larger theme of the environment.

V. General Timeline (2)

1275 Black rocks that burn are sighted by Marco Polo during his voyage through China
1300s Forest Code is introduced in France in order to regulate deforestation for naval usage
1366 Paris forces butchers to dispose of animal waste outside city walls
1388 Parliament passes an act forbidding the throwing of filth and garbage into streams, ponds, and lakes
1492 Christopher Columbus discovers America
1560-1600 England experiences increasing substitution of coal for wood as rapid industrialization takes place
1598 The Dodo is discovered in the islands of Mauritius
1662 The Dodo is extinct
1690 Paris becomes the first European city equipped with an extensive sewage system
1750 Thousands, including the mayor himself, are killed in London as the Typhus epidemic sweeps through the city
1800 London Sewage System begins construction
1805 Battle of Trafalgar - Viscount Nelson defeats Franco-Spanish naval force
1848 Cholera kills 62,000 people in England
1864 The Indian Forest Department established by the British Colonial Government
1926 Public Health Act is passed in the United Kingdom
1945 Atomic Bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
1949 Countryside Act is passed; National Parks are established in England and Wales
1962 Rachel Carson, American environmental activist, publishes Silent Spring
1971 Greenpeace founded
1986 Chernobyl Incident
1988 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) founded by the United Nations

VI. Environmental History in Europe

VI.1 Background Summary

VI.1.1 General Introduction (7)
            The rapid advancement in technology and science that began since the late 18th century brought about significant changes to the environment and affected it in ways never seen before. Alas, most of the new phenomena were negative consequences of the expansion in natural demands as well as that of technological progress. Since all human actions carry at least a slight environmental impact, it would be virtually impossible to discuss all of them in detail. Thus, the following subsections attempt to cover the big picture of environmental damage that was done to the region, placing an emphasis on the industrial revolution of the 19th century as well as the rapid development of technology in the late 20th century.

VI.1.2 Military Motives
            The military, being a pivotal part of the state, and the armament industry which comprises a significant part of the economy, affected the environment in diverse ways. However, the most significant effect can be seen regarding the deforestation that occurred in order to provide for the production of ships.
            The construction of a warship required the cutting down of hundreds of mature trees. The number of trees necessary soared as the era of colonialism began and the need to produce warships sturdy enough to carry heavy cannon and withstand enemy attack was raised. To illustrate, each of Lord Nelson's Royal Navy ships that fought against the Napoleonic Fleet at Trafalgar required six thousand mature oaks to construct (3). Considering that seventy four ships were deployed at the battlefield, over 400,000 fully mature trees were cut for the purpose of a single battle. Going back to the age of exploration, the destruction of the Spanish Armada devastated the forests of Spain, an impact which the Spanish forests have failed to fully recover.
            The deforestation caused by the need to produce warships left fatal blows to the forests of Europe. As the oak plantations planted by Colbert during the French Bourbon monarchy matured in the mid nineteenth century, such damages were those which required the passage of many decades to restore.

VI.1.3 Sources of Energy
            The main source of energy changed from period to period. It began with wood being the primary source of energy. With deforestation threatening wood supplies near urban areas, charcoal replaced wood as the major source. Then came coal, the dirty yet efficient and powerful natural resource that led the industrial revolution and powered the steam engine. Whale fat began to be used, but was soon replaced with petroleum, the most dominant source of energy today. However, modern history has taken us to other emerging forms of supplying our energy demand such as nuclear energy. Each of these sources left their respected impacts on the environment.
            Out of the abovementioned bases, coal was by far the most harmful to the environment. Coal supplied the fuel to run the industrialized society of the nineteenth century, as it played a critical role in the production of steel, the powering of steam engines, and the generation of electricity, among many more functions. Coal mining at the time involved underground digging operations which produced massive amounts of toxic waste that quite often found a way to the groundwater system. Moreover, the miners suffered from lung diseases as the toxic waste produced was not limited to liquid form, but floated in the nearby air through comparatively lighter particles which caused the diseases. The drainage that went into rivers and streams were rich in sulfur compounds, and formed sulfuric acid upon reaction with water, a substance harmful to humans and most flora and fauna of Europe. Yet, the harms were not limited to the process of digging out the substances. During the process of burning the coal, sulfur was released into the air. It formed sulfur dioxide which in turn returned to the earth as acid rain, again destroying ecosystems through water pollution.
            Petroleum, which replaced coal, accelerated the destruction that the mass usage of coal had introduced to the planet. Carbon dioxide levels rocketed, and the list of major cities affected by serious air pollution increased as it no longer was confined to areas like Manchester and Liverpool but other smaller cities as well with automobiles leading the increase. Climate change began to take effect and ocean tides turned, affecting the economies of coastal European states like Great Britain and Norway as their fishing industries, among many others, were forced to adjust to the new challenges.
            Nuclear energy, the new frontier, has been met with serious criticism in recent years. Despite France leading the world by powering around 78.8 percent of its electricity with nuclear energy, the disaster at Chernobyl and the might of the Green Party especially in Germany is preventing the further spread of the energy in the region. The Chernobyl incident, an explosion which released over 100 megacuries of radioactivity in surrounding areas, serves as a constant reminder of the possible ecological damage such a promising source of energy could force mankind to bear in future years.

VI.1.4 Agricultural Revolution
            The sharp rise in population levels pushed for more crop production. This new demand was met by both an increase in cultivated land as well as revolutionary agricultural technology most commonly referred to as "Green Technology." Intensified farming both in crops and domestic animals brought about a surge in nitrogen and phosphorous levels. To illustrate its effects, the high rates of nitrogen deposition caused due to the intensive, nitrogen-rich agriculture in the Netherlands caused the conversion of the ecological diverse native heathlands into monoculture grasslands (4). Moreover, additional irrigation diverted more water from nearby freshwater sources, adversely affecting aquatic ecosystems. The leakage of agricultural chemicals added to the negative impact as they degraded the water quality and turned them toxic and inept for consumption.

VI.1.5 Demographic Change and Urbanization
            The urbanization of the 19th century did not simply have a social impact; diseases manifested as well. In the early days of industrialization, thousands of poor factory laborers were forced to live in squalid conditions in city slums, getting daily exposure to filthy sanitary conditions. Such provided a perfect environment for pandemics like cholera to spread. The lack of water quality control allowed adulterated water to fill the wells of the workers¡¯ quarters and this was the direct cause for the spread of the cholera in England between 1849 and 1854. The effect of this was truly deadly; over 30,000 people were killed during the third outbreak in 1854 in the city of London alone (5). It is estimated that many more suffered greatly from its symptoms.

VI.2 Coverage in Textbooks

VI.2.1 The Western Heritage

            "Migration from the countryside meant that existing housing, water, sewers, food supplies, and lighting were completely inadequate. Slums with indescribable filth grew, and disease, especially cholera, ravaged the population. Human misery and degradation in many early-nineteenth century cities seemed to have no bounds" (p.744)

            In this book, specific figures are provided (ex. Germany 26.5 million to 33.5 million between 1831 and 1851) about the increase in population of major European states. Also, as mentioned above, urbanization is mentioned and the emergence of the cholera is also discussed.
            Content regarding the impact of agriculture is limited to the economic perspective and the environment remains largely ignored. For instance where the text mentions the improvements in agricultural technology that occurred during the 1920s with the development of better pesticides (p.968), the only effect it discusses is that the price of grain fell. Although the invention of these new chemicals would have left significant effects on the ecosystem, groundwater supply, and possible human health, these impacts are not discussed.
            A special section (pp.1116-1120) is devoted towards the analysis of energy and its effect on the modern world. Some explanation about the impact of each sources are provided with some details.


            "Coal generated a rising standard of living in Europe and the expansion of European and later American power, but coal also generated a number of social problems. The most shocking conditions of exploited labor occurred in coal mines, where parliamentary reports of the 1840s described and illustrated half-clad women and children drawing coal carts form the depts. Of the mines to the surface, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, thousands of miners died in mining disasters. Work in the mines injured the health of miners, as did the pollution sent into the atmosphere by coal fires from both factories and homes. By the early twentieth century, observers had begun to note the damage to the environment caused by strip mining of coal and the later abandonment of the region."


            "The effort to discover, extract, and transport oil would have major consequences for the world¡¯s physical and geopolitical environment far into the twentieth century."

      Nuclear Energy

            "Yet the technology of nuclear energy production proved to be exceedingly dangerous. The atomic reactors produced spent radioactive waste that would remain hazardous for hundreds of years. Although many years of warning of such danger, the Chernobyl nuclear generating plant in the former Soviet Union caused enormous and lasting damage in the spring of 1986. (Omitted) Environmental pollution and all the issues surrounding the nuclear generation of energy will demand increasing attention and expenditure of public funds."

            This section, "Energy and the Modern World," consists of three pages. The content relevant to the environment is less than ten lines. The usage of wood as a fuel source is widely ignored. Moreover, the coverage on oil is solely relevant from a geopolitical point of view. That of nuclear energy and coal is slightly better, but remains very much a coverage touching only the surface of the issue. For instance, water pollution due to coal mining or oil spills is not mentioned.
            Content regarding transportation, especially railways, is discussed as well. However, its coverage is limited to the economical perspective and lacks elaboration on the environmental effects.

VI.2.2 A History of Modern Europe
            This book provides some coverage on the impact of agricultural practices on the environment. For instance, "Land reclamation projects helped expand the amount of land under cultivation" (p.363). Despite the lack of discussion on the specific consequences, the practices and its implications are laid out. Crop rotation is mentioned in different pages (pp.360, 363). Specific discussion on the planting of new crops and its impact on nitrogen levels are also given: "Landowners planted fodder and root crop such as clobber and turnips. This provided food for animals as well as for human beings, in addition to enriching the soil by helping it absorb and retain nitrogen " (p.360).
            The expanding agricultural base is discussed with exact data: "More land gradually came under cultivation as marshes, brambles, bogs, and heaths gave way to the plow. Between 1750 and 1850 in Britain, 6 million acres - or one fourth of the country's cultivatable land - were incorporated into larger farms" (pp.517-518). The usage of more intensive agricultural techniques and fertilizers is mentioned, but its impacts provided are limited to the increased amount of land under cultivation. As for the impact of the Industrial Revolution on agriculture and that on the environment, the book focuses on food riots and the formation of the rural poor. The environmental aspect is largely ignored.
            Coverage on transportation progress carries lines relevant to the environment. The book states that the progress in shipping and economic benefits that resulted from the installation of railways. However, it also provides that some people of influence pointed out the environmental damage that took place: "Yet some contemporaries already feared the environmental costs of the iron tracks and black soot pouring from locomotives. Fearing for nature, the British poet William Wordsworth denounced the plan to build a line into the Lake District." Here, the environmental threat posed by the construction of railroads as well as the emission of burnt coal is provided. Discussion on the danger of nuclear power is conveyed through linkage with the formation of environmental activist groups such as Greenpeace and the Green Party of Germany.
            This book places the greatest emphasis on the impact of demographic change to the environment in comparison to environment impacts caused by other phenomena. Lines providing such coverage are as follows :

-       "Conditions of life in gritty industrial towns were appalling" (p.514).
-       "Cholera tore a deadly path through much of Europe in the early 1830s and reappeared several times until the 1890s. Tuberculosis (known to contemporaries as ¡°consumption¡±) still killed off many people, especially workers and particularly miners" (p.516).
-       "Sand filters and iron pipes helped make water more pure" (p.516).
-       "Factories increasingly polluted the air of industrialized regions. The traffic jam in Europe began, as cities became increasingly clogged with automobiles, which also polluted the air" (p.1142).

            These words, representing the many more lines of coverage on the impact of demographic change on the environment, show that in this category, the text does a good job of conveying the necessary information to link the trends of urbanization in the 19th and 20th century and the increase in pollution levels. Another important thing to point out is that this book also points out the efforts made by governments such as the sand filters and iron pipes that improved sanitation levels for the people

VI.3 Analysis Chart
Broad Category Specific Category No Mention Slight Coverage Thorough Coverage
Military Deforestation WH, HME
Energy Wood Impact WH, HME
Charcoal Impact WH, HME
Coal Water Pollution WH HME
Coal Air Pollution WH, HME
Coal Diseases WH HME
Petroleum Global Warming WH, HME
Nuclear Energy Dangers WH, HME
Agriculture Water Degradation + Diversion WH, HME
Nitrogen Rise WH HME
Phosphorous Rise WH, HME
Demographic Urbanization of the 19th century WH HME
Squalid Living Conditions WH HME
Cholera Epidemic WH HME

VII. European Environmental Impact on the Colonies

VII.1 Background Summary

VII.1.1 Definition and Layout
            Colonialism, a system of rule which a state claims sovereignty over territory and people outside its own boundary, left heavy influences on the environment. Imperialism, the idea driving the practice of colonialism, can thus be linked to a variety of environmental impacts. In this paper, the term colonialism will be used to encompass both the idea of imperialism that supported colonialism and the actual practice of such policies commonly referred to as colonialism by historians. Having this laid as a basis for further investigation, colonialism, by nature a mechanism that forced monopoly capitalism upon the society, led to two main consequences.
            First, forced policies from the mother country for the maximization of their profit led to the exploitation of resources and other severe consequences. Second, colonialism and imperialism by its very definition involved the interaction between people from different societies and races
            These consequences led to the rise of a variety of different forms in environmental destruction.

VII.1.2 Deforestation
            The introduction of the plantation agriculture in attempts to produce large amounts of cash products led to deforestation. Moreover, the need to make space for infrastructure, for instance railroads, strengthened the demand for deforestation. Furthermore, with the population on the rise, the demand for timber increased as well, resulting in even more deforestation taking place.
            In India, a British colony, timber was exploited to serve as fuel for steam engines as well as to provide material for shipbuilding. The great demand for timber existed during the time, and with the opening of major railways that enabled further development of forests, the deforestation process simply accelerated.
            In Madagascar, a French colony, deforestation was generated in order to make room for coffee cultivation. The French colonial government, in order to bring great revenue to the state, encouraged coffee plantations in the island, and forests needed to be cleared in order to provide enough space for such plantations to take root. Yet, the problem did not stop there as the native population began to rely on shifting cultivation which also generated massive deforestation. All of these phenomena combined led to a severe reduction in forest area in Madagascar, as roughly 70 percent of the primary forest was destroyed between 1895 and 1925 (6).
            As for the environmental impacts that deforestation brought to colonized areas, soil erosion comes to the lead. Without the trees which supported the soil during severe rainfall, the fertile topsoil simply eroded during monsoon periods or the rainy season. To exemplify, erosion rates nearly doubled in Madagascar after the implementation of coffee plantations. Other negative effects, such as loss of biodiversity, salination of the soil, and water pollution all emerged as a result of colonialism.

VII.1.3 Cash Cropping
            Another reason why most colonized areas suffered severe environmental consequences was that cash cropping dominated the economy and agriculture of the region. The mother nation required its colonies to specify on a cash product, a product with which they could export to other regions around the world and earn great profit. Rubber in Malaysia and wool in Australia are examples of such cash products. The way of life for the indigenous population had to shift from subsistence agriculture to other forms preferred by colonizing governments such as the tropical plantation or mass grazing. The negative impact that this left on the environment can be witnessed from the following cases.
            First, in the British colony of Nigeria was entirely transformed into a production center for palm oil. As a result, by 1900, only fifteen years after the establishment of the Royal Niger Company which began the process of colonizing and governing the area, 89 percent of Nigeria¡¯s total exports was that of palm oil (7). Another case is that of Australia, another British possession which had no native sheep population and only introduced the first sheep in 1797, saw the number go up to over 100 million by the 1890s (8).
            As for the impact that cash cropping had pertaining to the specific examples, the native population of Nigeria had to find ways to provide something to nourish their own people, which caused environmental problems of its own. In Australia, as sheep are very aggressive grazers, the vegetation in coastal Australia suffered greatly and sheep grazing moved inward into the arid areas, which caused water resources to become depleted. On a more general level, the introduction of unknown species in a mass scale as well as the sudden surge in the number of a specific crop did very much harm to the biodiversity to the region and resulted in detrimental effects.
            Yet, the detrimental effects of cash cropping were not limited to the large colonies of the 18th and 19th centuries. Even in the 15th century, the islands of the Azores, Canaries, and Madeira were run under the plantation system implanted by the Spanish and the Portuguese. By as early as the 1670s, the effects revealed themselves as dust storms, the drying up of perennial streams, and the disappearance of fauna and flora could be observed on a marked scale (9).

VII.1.4 Mining
            Mining, such as that of diamonds in South Africa or gold in Ghana, led to numerous environmental problems. The large-scale destruction of land and forests led to massive soil erosion, deforestation, flattening of mountains, and the loss of habitat for various species. As significant quantities of soil were disturbed as a result of mining, topsoil and nutrients moved to different locations, adversely affecting the vegetation and the soil organisms of the area (10). Moreover, mining caused a problem rather distinct from those resulting from other practices, as it created pollution of rivers and soils with toxic chemicals widely utilized in the industry. The lack of proper regulation as well as that of advanced mining technology only worsened the pollution.

VII.1.5 Diseases
            Diseases - their spread and eradication - are all part of the environment as well. Diseases influence the lives and death of different species, and are oftentimes transmitted through various mechanisms of the environment; wind, water, bacteria, and even viruses.
            Colonialism also affected diseases. The interaction between groups with no prior interaction resulted in the death of millions as diseases of which the natives had no immunity swept them through their interactions with the Europeans. The Europeans were also targets of such diseases, but the extent of harm was comparably less. One of the most deadly of diseases from Europe that affected the native population was smallpox. The disease was caused due to the close interaction between the Eurasians and large domesticated mammals. Animal infections crossed species overtime and evolved into new strains which became lethal to humans. Overtime, Eurasians who had developed immunity to the disease, reproduced and dominated the population. Thus, the European invaders had antibodies and immunities which were passed on from their parent generations. However, the native population of the Americas lived in different conditions; the only large mammal they grew was the llama, an animal which was never kept indoors, rarely eaten, and mostly used for agricultural purposes. Cross-species viral infection never arose in the Americas prior to European invasion and as this was the case, the Native Americans were completely vulnerable to the newly encountered diseases. The disease could be spread with very much ease; coughing, sneezing, and tactile infection could all lead to its spread. In Puerto Rico, for instance, two-thirds of the native population was wiped out by 1515. Considering that the first European to set foot on the island was Christopher Columbus in 1493, the disease shook the entire population structure in a mere twenty years (11). Other diseases like typhus added to the depopulation of the Americas, killing an estimated ninety percent of the native population.
            The impacts of the diseases were not limited to the American continents. In Africa, and to a lesser degree in Asia and Australia and the Pacific islands, the same phenomenon occurred. To exemplify, a 1713 epidemic of smallpox in the Cape of Good Hope decimated the South African Khoi San people. The aborigines and Maori population of the Southern Hemisphere met similar fates.
            Animals were subjected to mass deaths due to newly invading diseases. Rinderpest, a European livestock disease, killed between 90 % and 95 % of the native cattle and other grazing animals in Africa between 1890 and the early 1900s, a disaster made possible by the importation of large numbers of cattle made possible through the invention of the steam-powered sea vessels (12).
            However, the disaster went on even further. The absence of grazing animal enabled the vegetation to flourish to unprecedented levels, and this provided a perfect habitat for the tsetse flies. New hordes of tsetse flies spread sleeping sickness which took away an estimated 200,000 lives in Uganda during the four year period between 1902 and 1906 (13).

VII.1.6 Extinction of Species
            Hunting and predation left a significant impact on the environment as it altered entire ecosystems through the eradication of species. The motive behind the hunting was mostly focused on acquiring cash products, such as ivory and beaver fur, but was not limited to them as overfishing was manifest in densely populated colonized islands.
            It did not take long for species to go extinct due to hunting; continued demand for products accelerated the mass killings. Beavers numbered between 60 to 400 million prior to European arrival into the Americas, but the great demand for the animal¡¯s thick, waterproof fur nearly drove the species to extinction. In the early 1900s just prior to the introduction of protection laws, their number in North America had dropped to around 100,000 (14).
            However, direct hunting was not solely responsible for the extinction of diverse species. In the case of the Dodo in Mauritius, what had actually caused their extinction was not the hunt for its meat on the part of humans, but rather the introduction of European fauna and the deforestation that occurred and ultimately destroyed their habitat and disturbed their nests. Pigs and macaques plunged the dodo nests; rats feasted on their eggs (15). The new animals brought in by the Europeans posed insurmountable challenges for the survival of the Dodo.

VII.2 Coverage in Textbooks

VII.2.1 The Western Heritage
            Direct mention of the link between colonialism and its effect on the environment can be rarely found in this book. Colonies are described as "safe sources of raw materials" (p.887), but the coverage stops here and lacks elaboration on the specific results of the extraction of such resources. This way of portrayal is continued; "Both Native American empires (Aztec and Inca) were overthrown by Spain, which then established a vast American empire whose resources, especially gold and silver, formed the basis of the great Spanish Empire in Europe. Portugal exploited the agricultural and mineral riches of Brazil using slaves imported from Africa" (p.929). Despite the inescapable environmental harm that would result from the exploitation of resources and the importation of slaves, such harm is not mentioned.
            "Unlike most colonial powers, the British imported great quantities of natural resources from their colonies and carried on a high percentage of their trade with them" (pp.929-930). In this sentence, the lack of elaboration can be once again seen as it is unclear why the British engaged themselves in different relationships with their colonies and how this had differing environmental effects.
            These accounts with possible relevance to the environmental effects of colonialism are very limited and difficult to spot. No subheadings were devoted to point out the environmental impact of colonization directly, and even the sentences quoted above are rather doubtful as to whether they even hint at the environmental consequences.
            The majority of the coverage is from political and economic perspectives, focusing on the movement of wealth and the changes in diplomatic and military relations between different European powers. On the whole, the environment is rather overlooked.

VII.2.2 A History of Modern Europe

Exchange of Fauna and Flora Species
            "The exchange of diseases was a tragic consequence of the meeting between the Old and the New Worlds, but there were beneficial exchanges as well. Before the arrival of the Europeans, there were no domesticated animals larger than the llama and alpaca in the Americas and little protein in the Indian diet. Spaniards brought horses and cattle with them. Sheep had accompanied Columbus on his second journey. The 350 pigs brought to Cuba by Columbus had multiplied to over 30,000 by 1514. They provided manure for farming but ate their way into the forest land and eroded the indigenous agricultural terrace system, upsetting the ecological balance of the conquered lands" (p.40).
            The passage above reveals valuable coverage on the environmental consequences of the colonization of the Americas. The introduction of new species is explicitly mentioned with specific examples; their domination of the ecosystem is supported with accurate numbers. The last sentence, however, contains the greatest significance, as the direct link between colonialism and the environmental upsetting that occurred in periods that followed is revealed. The word ¡®ecological balance¡¯ is even used to describe the phenomenon.
            The introduction of tobacco, beans, cacao, potatoes, chili pepper, and maize is given in the following pages. It is also written that the maize fed European animals, enabling them to survive and flourish in the new environment. The transfer of wheat, barley, rice, and oats from Spain to the new world is also given (p.40). Between pages 36 and 43, approximately a third of a page is devoted to agricultural exchange and changes in plant and animal species. A direct mentioning of cases with specific environmental impact is provided as well.

            "In the developing colonies, settlers moved westward to take available land (referring to the Americas), pushing Native Americans farther back. Disease, along with guns, helped them. John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts, noted in 1634, "For the natives, they are all near dead of the smallpox, so as the Lord hath cleared out title to what we possess (p.196)"" In this excerpt, the effect of smallpox on the native population and how it assisted the settlers into achieving their goals is mentioned.

            The colonialism during the late 18th and 19th Centuries is classified under the term ¡®imperialism¡¯ in this book. An entire chapter (Ch.21) is devoted to the coverage of European Imperialism, a chapter titled The Age of European Imperialism. Despite being forty pages in length, its coverage of environmental issues is very limited.
            "The British government also expedited railway construction in India in order to be able to move troops rapidly. From less than 300 miles of track in 1857, a network of 25,000 miles was established by 1900. Railway development also encouraged production of Indian cotton, rice, oil, jute, indigo, and tea, which could now reach ports by train and then be exported to Britain. Railroads reduced the ravages of famine in India. So did the planting of new crops, such as potatoes and corn. The greater availability of food contributed to rapid population growth. The Indian subcontinent in the twentieth century would become one of the most populous places on earth" (p.838).
            This paragraph explains the introduction of new plant species and how it allowed for rapid population growth. However, the environmental consequences are not explained in greater detail; the competition between native and the newly introduced species as well as the introduction of new farming techniques and systems are not discussed.
            "The European powers used the soil and subsoil for their own profit; and they exploited the population for labor. The European powers imposed commercial controls over natural resources (p.846). Local populations were forced to abandon traditional agricultural practices" (p.847)
            With this paragraph, the book makes an effort to provide an explanation for how the Europeans altered agricultural practices in the region. However, although it mentions the social aspect of the matter - that of labor exploitation, the environmental aspect is overlooked. The shift from traditional practices must have left serious environmental effects throughout India, but these effects are not elaborated upon in the text.
            "Gold and diamond discoveries in South Africa in the 1860s inspired colonists¡¯ dreams" (p.855). "To be sure, colonies provided some valued products for European markets. Ivory and rubber from Congo, palm oil from Nigeria, Dahomey, and the Ivory Coast, peanuts from French Senegal, diamonds and gold from South Africa, coffee from British Ceylon, and sugar from Malaya proved to be lucrative commodities" (p.855).
            Again, an extensive list of cash products is provided. But the coverage stops here. There is no mentioning of the plantation agriculture or its adversary effects on the ecosystem of the various regions in Africa. .

VII.3 Analysis Chart

General Category Specific Category No Mention Slight Coverage Thorough Coverage
Deforestation Demand in Europe HME WH
Practice in Colonies WH, HME
Cash Cropping Tropical Colonies WH HME
Non-Tropical Colonies WH HME
Mining Mining WH HME
Diseases Spread of Diseases WH HME
Impact of Diseases WH HME
Extinction of Species Exchange of Species WH, HME
Extinction of Native Species WH, HME

VIII. Conclusion

VIII.1 Comparison of Sources
            Overall, the coverage of nature and the environment in The Western Heritage is far from adequate. The vast majority of its content is devoted to political, economic, and social perspectives, with an emphasis on the social perspective in comparison to other books. For instance, it devotes many sections to the progress of women and their role in society, as well as that of the working class. New jobs and roles that occurred in society, for instance the police force that came into existence in the 19th century, are discussed with great detail.
            However, the environmental side of things is greatly ignored. The sheer amount of content regarding environmental problems is shockingly little, and even the existing coverage that is extremely difficult to find is limited to portrayal from the economical aspect. Not a single chapter is written that deals with environmental issues. Even the hard-to-find content is focused on the environmentalism movement, also called the green movement. This is mostly due to the political impact it had in states like Germany. Aside from such movements, the specific harms that were done to the environment cannot be found in the text.
            The text, even with its emphasis on the social perspective, should provide at least the environmental consequences that affected the daily lives of many people, such as the urban poor and the coal miners. Even content on these issues seem to be far from sufficient in this textbook.
            As for A History of Modern Europe, only a few lines are devoted to the coverage of environmental damage done to colonized regions. Plantation agriculture, for instance, is not explicitly mentioned. The only content from which we can deduce the environmental impact is the introduction and the parts regarding the adoption of different plant and animal species. It is surprising that despite the vast amount of content devoted to this section, the environment and its related contents are covered in just a couple of lines, even without being given a subheading or proper analysis.
            The coverage of environmental impact on Europe is comparably more thorough in this textbook. The sections regarding the effect of demographic transition, as evaluated in the analysis chart, is quite desirable. Despite the concentration of most of the environmental coverage on that of demographic change, its coverage on the environmental effects of other phenomena such as the usage of coal is more suitable than that of The Western Heritage.
            However, despite the existence of great damage and alterations brought in by the Europeans as written in Section VI.1, nothing is written regarding the specific mechanisms or consequences from an environmental perspective. It would be necessary to include at least a subsection devoted entirely to the analysis of the environmental impact of colonialism from a perspective not political or economic but an environmental perspective.

VIII.2 General Conclusion
            History, by definition, is a chronological record of significant events with an explanation of their causes. It is true that what is significant may differ by historian, and with the textbooks, the limit on the amount of text suitable for books of such a kind places even more limits on the historian as to the material he can cover. However, one of the most important goals of history is to explain the formation of our current society. In the shaping of the world that we know of today, environmental destruction presents one of the most important issues to be dealt with, and thus the state of the environment is just as important now as the formation of our democratic system or that of free market capitalism.
            However, textbooks, whose purpose is to provide diverse historical perspectives and background for the understanding of the current society for the young, seem to be lacking an explanation as to how the current state of our biosphere came into being. In fact, whereas the stories of various classes are explicitly laid out, that of Mother Nature is left out. It may be due to decades of activists¡¯ works for the furtherance of the rights of women and the poor, but the relatively short period of environmentalist activity. Nonetheless, one thing is very clear; the coverage of the environment in the two textbooks must be strengthened and given more depth.
            In Europe, the environmental damage left behind by the Industrial Revolution and the following human activities have been the cause for multinational dispute and expenditure of government budget in the billions. Concerns over the environment have risen in its significance to be of much greater importance than sheer love for nature. Issues such as the movement of toxic material through wind, the change of sea tide and its resulting impact on the marine ecosystem and the fishing industry have lit the fire for disputes between nations and have become the issues of fierce debate on the political arena during elections.
            Moreover, in regions outside of Europe the altered ways of agriculture and of life itself forced to the colonized natives by the Europeans continue to the current day. The serious environmental issues that plague such areas - water pollution, desertification, and loss of biodiversity - have such changes to be held most responsible. The cash products to this day continue to be the main export commodities of the now independent states, and the plantation agriculture introduced to the tropical colonies maintains its dominance in the agriculture of the region. Thus, the significance of the environmental impact of colonialism is great and demands extensive coverage, as for in these regions, it is not just an issue of wildlife and ecosystems, but politics and economics as well that is inevitable heavily intertwined with the European environmental effects during the colonial era.
            The criticism and the points mentioned throughout this paper can only be a fraction of the issues regarding the environment that would deserve mention in a textbook covering modern European history. As it is the case for historical textbooks, the limits apply to this paper as well. The Industrial Revolution had a whole spectrum of environmental effects; a list could be made that would explain the impacts of the Industrial Revolution by major industry, and this still would be far from complete in the coverage of all the environmental changes that occurred. Another example may be deforestation. The causes mentioned in this paper are not the only causes behind global deforestation. It was not simply the military need or the search for lumber that brought millions of trees to the ground. Political factors such as the push for enclosure by the gentry in England. The rise of new ideology and the motto of what is under private ownership is better used than something under communal ownership contributed to deforestation as well. As can be seen from these examples, the criticism given in this paper is far from complete and only strives to point out major human activity and its relatively bigger impacts on the environment, placing a focus on the Industrial Revolution and colonialism.
            Textbooks cannot cover everything. The environment, however, is significant. With a more comprehensive approach towards the environment and the link between human activity and environmental destruction and preservation, a more balanced text would be formed, much to the benefit of the readers and the society as a whole.

(1)      "Environment" from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online
(2)      Environmental History Timeline by William Kovarik
(3)      About Deforestation from Tripatlas
(4)      Global Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Expansion by David Tilman
(5)      Cholera : Tracing the First Truly Global Disease from National Geographic
(6)      The Ecological and Political Impact of Colonialism in the Third World During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Kamil Kanji
(7)      ibid.
(8)      Environment and Imperialism: Why Colonialism Still Matters by Joseph Murphy
(9)      Climatic Fears: Colonialism and the History of Environmentalism by Richard Grove
(10)      Same as 6
(11)      Plains Indian Smallpox by O. Ned Eddins
(12)      Same as 6
(13)      ibid.
(14)      Beavers: Nature¡¯s Engineers from The Humane Society of the United States
(15)      Bringing the Dodo Back from BBC News

Bibliography The following websites were visited in June 2010

1.      The Western Heritage ?Volume C: Since 1789, (1987) Eighth Edition 2004 Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner / Pearson Prentice Hall
2.      A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present, (1996) Third Edition 2010 / John Merriman / Yale University Press
3.      Entry: Environment from Merriam-Webster Online
4.      Article: Climatic Fears, Colonialism and the History of Environmentalism by Richard Grove, Harvard International Review Winter 2002 Issue,
5.      Article: Environment and Imperialism: Why Colonialism Still Matters by Joseph Murphy
6.      Article: The Ecological and Political Impact of Colonialism in the Third World during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Kamil Kanji,
7.      Article: Plains Indian Smallpox by O. Ned Eddins,
8.      Environmental History Timeline by William Kovarik,
9.      Article: Guns, Germs, and Steel from PBS,
10.      Beavers: Nature's Engineers from The Humane Society of the United States
11.      Article: Bringing the Dodo Back from BBC News
12.      Webpage: Working With the Environment - Section 1.3. The Industrial Revolution and its Environmental Impacts from OpenLearn LearningSpace
13.      Article: Cholera: Tracking the First Truly Global Disease by Sharon Guynup of the National Geographic News, June 14th 2004,
14.      Article: Energy Production and Environmental Impact: A Brief History by Andrew Patrick,
15.      Webpage: About Deforestation from Tripatlas
16.      Article: Global Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Expansion: The Need for Sustainable and Efficient Practices by David Tilman, National Academy of Sciences, May 1999

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