How Did English Settlement Affect the Land of North America  Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

British agricultural revolution and English settlement patterns in their colonies in New England. It is the authors contention that the world view of the English influenced their agricultural practices and the way that these practices changed the ecology of the land in New England. While largely a failure as a commercial enterprise in New England, it did however have commonalities with the Middle and Southern colonies, a relentless drive West and a decimation of Native American cultures and populations. Needless to say, there were huge differences between this English world view and English agricultural policies and the Native American world view, agricultural practices and approach to the environment.

While agriculture was largely a failure as a commercial enterprise in New England, the idea in the English settlers mind to keep pushing West to find arable land was alive and well and continued throughout the colonial period. Surprisingly enough, this English view of agricultural policies was in flux during the colonial experience and after the French and Indian War (post 1763), their policies vis a vis the Native American tribes becoming much more like the French had been in their policies, becoming more tolerant of native cultures in the process. After 1763, the British government attempted to contain colonial settlers to the areas east of the Appalachian Mountains, leading to a major contributing cause cited by colonial leaders as a reason for their revolt against the British Crown.

British Agricultural Innovations

One can not understand agriculture in America unless one understands the mental tool kit brought by British settlers in colonial America. In England, rising populations produced pressures on he price of grain, which gave landlords a justification for innovations to improve their incomes and lifestyle. In do so. landlords began a series of farm innovations that we know as the Agricultural Revolution. The rising price of grain produced a market that favored commercialized agriculture and the end of traditional peasant methods of production based upon communal lands. In England, this led to the enclosure of method of agriculture replacing the open-field method that had been the mainstay since the beginnings of the Middle Ages. This encouraged the use of the fields for pasture land for cattle in order to produce more manure than normally would be needed in order to produce radically increased crop yields. While old school agriculture produced a steady and predictable food supply, it did not produce a growing supply. This spirit of entrepreneurship, even more than technological change was the lasting legacy and it headed over the Atlantic ocean to the New World in New England but failed in New England as a commercial enterprise.1 Unfortunately for the Native Americans, this failure of agriculture in New England did not mean its end as a subsistence enterprise. The result was an unmitigated disaster as their way of life met extinction wherever colonial settlers moved. Their hunting, gathering and village agriculture was just incompatible with the new English ways of private ownership of land, as we will examine in detail below.

Farming, Westward Migration and Fuel for Rebellion

In the New England Colonies, farming was not much of as an overall economic factor. Much of the soil was poor and not good for commercial crops, with early winters killing a lot of crops.2 For scholar Carolyn Merchant, in New England, there was a colonial ecological revolution that occurred during the course of the 17th century that was externally generated by English settlers. This revolution resulted

in the collapse of Native American ecologies and what Merchant calls "the incorporation of a European ecological complex of animals, plants, pathogens, and people...legitimated by a set of symbols that placed cultured


above wild nature, other animals, and 'beastlike savages.'"3 Paradise was truly lost for the natives as the plow and the settler came west.

The struggle spoken of above resulted in the push into the American West by New England colonial governments and colonists…

Sources Used in Document:


Canterbery, E. Ray. The Making of Economics: The foundation. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific

Publishing Company, 2003.

Cochrane, William W. Development of American Agriculture: A Historical Analysis . Rochester, MN:

Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1993.

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