The Environment and World History

Publication Year



Co-editor Edmund Burke, III, Ph.D. 1970.

Since around 1500 C.E., humans have shaped the global environment in ways that were previously unimaginable. Bringing together leading environmental historians and world historians, this book offers an overview of global environmental history throughout this remarkable 500-year period. In eleven essays, the contributors examine the connections between environmental change and other major topics of early modern and modern world history: population growth, commercialization, imperialism, industrialization, the fossil fuel revolution, and more. Rather than attributing environmental change largely to European science, technology, and capitalism, the essays illuminate a series of culturally distinctive, yet often parallel developments arising in many parts of the world, leading to intensified exploitation of land and water.

The wide range of regional studies—including some in Russia, China, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Southern Africa, and Western Europe—together with the book's broader thematic essays makes The Environment and World History ideal for courses that seek to incorporate the environment and environmental change more fully into a truly integrative understanding of world history.

Table of Contents

List of Figures, Maps, and Tables

Part One: Overview
1. Introduction: World History and Environmental History
Kenneth Pomeranz
2. The Big Story: Human History, Energy Regimes, and the Environment
Edmund Burke III
3. Toward a Global System of Property Rights in Land
John F. Richards

Part Two: Rivers, Regions, and Developmentalism
4. The Transformation of the Middle Eastern Environment, 1500 B.C.E.-2 C.E.
Edmund Burke III
5. The Transformation of China's Environment, 1500-2
Kenneth Pomeranz
6. The Rhine as a World River
Mark Cioc
7. Continuity and Transformation: Colonial Rice Frontiers and Their Environmental Impact on the Great River Deltas of Mainland Southeast Asia
Michael Adas

Part Three: Landscapes, Conquests, Communities, and the Politics of Knowledge
8. Beyond the Colonial Paradigm: African History and Environmental History in Large-Scale Perspective
William Beinart
9. Environmental Histories of India: Of States, Landscapes, and Ecologies
Mahesh Rangarajan
10. Latin American Environmental History: A Shifting Old/New Field
Lise Sedrez
11. The Predatory Tribute-Taking State: A Framework for Understanding Russian Environmental History
Douglas R. Weiner

Select Bibliography
List of Contributors


“A collection of articles dealing with various environmental subjects covering different parts of the world. This book provides exactly this.”—Canadian Journal Of History

“[Gives] a truly integrative understanding of world history.”—Abstracts Of Public Administration, Development And Environment

“This well-organized, clearly written volume finally eliminates any anxiety environmental historians have wrestled with for decades.”—Niklas Robinson Journal Of World History

"This collection makes a valuable contribution to the literature. The essays have broad themes and impressive historical sweep. The Burke and Pomeranz volume will find a place on the bookshelf of every environmental historian who teaches the increasingly prevalent survey of world environmental history."—James L.A. Webb, Jr., author of Humanity's Burden: A Global History of Malaria

Series Title
California world history library
Series Volume
University of California Press
Cloth: 9780520256873; paper: 9780520256880