In 1800, the highlands of Sri Lanka had some of the most biologically diverse primary tropical rainforest ecosystems in the world. By 1900, only a few craggy corners and mountain caps had been spared the fire stick. Highland villagers, through the extension of slash-and-burn agriculture, and British managers, through the creation of plantations—first of coffee, then cinchona, and finally tea—had removed virtually the entire primary forest cover.
Tropical Pioneers documents the conversion of a tropical rainforest biome and the collision between what previously had been more discrete ecological zones within South Asia. The ecological impacts were transformational. Author James L. A. Webb, Jr., demonstrates that profound ecological disruption occurred in the central highlands of Sri Lanka during the nineteenth century and suggests that the theme of ecological crisis brought about by the integration of tropical ecological zones during precolonial and colonial periods alike is an important one for historians to investigate elsewhere.
Tropical Pioneers is based on extensive research in the National Archives of Sri Lanka, the National Agricultural Library at Gannaruwa, the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society-Ceylon Branch, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Public Record Office of the United Kingdom, and the British Library.
James L. A. Webb, Jr. is a Professor of History at Colby College. He is the editor of the Ohio University Press series Perspectives on Global Health and the Series in Ecology and History and the author of Humanity’s Burden: A Global History of Malaria and The Long Struggle against Malaria in Tropical Africa. He is currently writing a book on the historical epidemiology of diarrheal diseases. More info →
Save 20% ($23.16)
Save 20% ($64)
US and Canada only
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
Whether romantic or tragic, accounts of the dramatic events surrounding the North American Dust Bowl of the “dirty thirties” unearthed anxieties buried deep in America’s ecological imagination. Moreover, the images of a landscape of fear remain embedded in the national consciousness today. In vivid form, the aesthetic of suffering captured in Dorothea Lange’s photographs and Woody Guthrie’s folk songs created the myths and memories of the Depression generation.Dust
Britain’s supremacy in the nineteenth century depended in large part on its vast deposits of coal. This coal not only powered steam engines in factories, ships, and railway locomotives but also warmed homes and cooked food. As coal consumption skyrocketed, the air in Britain’s cities and towns became filled with ever-greater and denser clouds of smoke.In
Inventing Global Ecology grapples with how we should understand the development of global ecology in the twentieth century. Using India as the case study, Professor Michael Lewis considers the development of conservation policies and conservation sciences since the end of World War II and the role of United States scientists, ideas, and institutions in this process.
Sign up to be notified when new History | Historical Geography titles come out.
We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.