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Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land: An Environmental History of Africa, 1800-1990 Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0325000961 ISBN-10: 0325000964 Edition: 0th

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Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land: An Environmental History of Africa, 1800-1990 + Custodians of the Land: Ecology and Culture in the History of Tanzania (Eastern African Studies) + Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann (April 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0325000964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0325000961
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,092,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


In a subtle way, his work shows that the degradation narratives so beloved of environmentalists when pleading for money are wrong without devaluing the reality of environmental change and its effects on the peoples of Africa. As a book, McCann's work leaves one wanting more: more detail, more case studies, more pages, more master narrative. One wants ammunition to counter the arguments advanced by McNeill, Crosby, Diamond and even Curtin and Thornton about the ways that African environments limited the potential for social development in Africa. McCann's answer, the only valid one, gives cold comfort; the relationship between humans and environment is a contingent and specific one. Neither the degradation narrative of environmental activists nor the nurturing narrative promoted by Fairhead and Leach capture this ambiguous relationship; only the detailed examination of McCann's 'signs of the past' can provide a clue to Africa's environmental future as past. - Gregory H. Maddox in JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORY In recent years, Africa's environmental history has begun to emerge as another area of innovation with important implications for how we view the broader human past ... draws on the best of this new research to provide a concise synthesis of the historical development of the African landscape. The central argument of this crisply-written book is that, far from being unchanging and primordial, African landscapes are the product of human action. - John Parker in ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW The book's greatest strength is its general accessibility - ideal for undergraduates... - Helen Tilley in JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James C. McCann is Professor of History and director of the African Studies Center at Boston University.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "bumbiebea" on February 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book for an undergraduate course in comparative environmental history. McCann dispells common myths about Africa (static, has been in environmental decline throughout its history). Instead, he argues that Africa's environmental history can't be judged in a linear perspective - it is neither "declensionist" (continued decline) nor progressive (environment always being improved by people). His book places African agriculturalists within a larger framework of history. Several chapters discuss the role of politics in impacting local environmental change. This a valuable perspective and shows that environmental history has many applications in public policy (implied connections that are mentioned but not developed within the book).
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Angela Horner on May 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
McCann, a historian by education, provides us with a synthesis of the changing African landscape. He argues that the landscape in Africa has always been unstable, and the cause for the instability is anthropogenic activity. His argument specifically deals with the forests of Africa, and he addresses the issue of 'perceived' deforestation. Essentially, he seeks to prove that whatever deforestation that is occurring now in Africa is simply part of a larger, human-induced cycle. This implies that deforestation is "okay" in Africa, because it has happened before and recovered before. However, his argument falls short when he employs the same methodology (researching historical narratives) to prove his points as he does to DISprove the points of others. It is clear that history is not the most accurate of teachers, and I had a difficult time believing McCann's selected historical essays had any more credence than those he attempted to detract.
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