Why this book?
Alfred Crosby’s fascinating book opened my eyes to how much the European colonial project depended not just on conquering, dominating, and exterminating indigenous people, but also replacing the local flora and fauna with European plants and animals. I learned the term “Neo-Europe” from this book. This was the recreation of European civilization in other parts of the planet: New Zealand, Australia, North America, and to a lesser extent southern South America, and southern Africa. By introducing new crops, new insects to pollinate them, and new domestic animals that displaced indigenous flora and fauna, the settler-colonists culture succeeded in terraforming the environment into a world increasingly familiar to Europeans and increasingly alien to the people they conquered.
The Neo-Europe project failed in the tropics, particularly tropical Africa, where soil conditions and endemic diseases like malaria, yellow fever, and sleeping sickness made it impossible for Europeans to create successful Neo-Europes and replace indigenous peoples. In those latitudes, Europeans still managed to dominate there, but different kinds of hybrid societies and environments emerged.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
People of European descent form the bulk of the population in most of the temperate zones of the world - North America, Australia and New Zealand. The military successes of European imperialism are easy to explain; in many cases they were a matter of firearms against spears. But as Alfred W. Crosby maintains in this highly original and fascinating book, the Europeans' displacement and replacement of the native peoples in the temperate zones was more a matter of biology than of military conquest. European organisms had certain decisive advantages over their New World and Australian counterparts. The spread of European…