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Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa (Ecology & History) Paperback – September 11, 2007

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Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa (Ecology & History) + In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society + Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States
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Product Details

  • Series: Ecology & History
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press; 1 edition (September 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0821417525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0821417522
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,162,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Davis’s study has done more than any other previous work to place the Middle East on the agenda of environmental history. . . this pathbreaking book should be required reading for all those interested in the history of the Maghrib, environmental history, and the history of colonialism.”
Alan Mikhail, International Journal of Middle East Studies

“In carefully cataloging the troubling and troubled colonial past of North African ecology and ideas about that ecology, Diana Davis takes seriously the problem that history shapes both physical landscapes and the power-laden narratives through which we come to know them. A tremendous contribution!”
Paul Robbins — author of Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction

“Diana K. Davis’s rich and compelling book not only challenges the declensionist narrative on the basis of empirical evidence, but it also explains how and why that narrative came to be constructed in the context of French colonial rule.... Davis makes a powerful argument for exposing the means by which colonized peoples were exploited in the name of environmental protection....”
Caroline Ford—International History Review
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Diana K. Davis is an associate professor of history at the University of California at Davis. She has published in Environmental History, Geoforum, Cultural Geographies, the Journal of Arid Environments, and Secheresse.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. Husman on October 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having just completed The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, a book about farmers in the Dust Bowl, I found this to be a refreshing counterpoint. Dr. Davis' thesis in RtGoR is that the French colonists created a narrative in which Algeria was once a vast green sea of forests and grain, but that the nomads (read: barbaric Arabs) ruined it with their primitive farming and especially herding methods. This "declensionist narrative" was used to justify the result: the French were morally obligated to re-civilise Algeria and restore the region to its former glory.

The trouble was that it wasn't true.

There were several topics in the book that intrigued me. Dr. Davis discusses various types of property recognized by the indigenous Algerians, including communal property used to rotate grazing animals to allow some land to remain fallow. She also briefly explores the interrelationship between deforestation and dessicationist theories that instructed 19th century environmentalism and their foundation in Christian mythology. An important theme in the book is the idea of environmentalism as a means of social control (colonists over natives). Finally, she describes how the declensionist narrative worked its way into early 20th century botanical science, resulting in continuing negative consequences for the region.

The discussion of property interests me as an example of alternative social organization.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Moheroy on April 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a polemical work, it alleges, with considerable fairness that North African Environmental History is based upon a self serving colonial narrative. However, it never escapes its polemical tone. It is a history of environmental historical theory almost devoid of science. It's scientific sources are both scarce and poorly chosen, and it places this in one of the crudest of all postcolonial narratives of French history.

In this work, the nomads and pastoralists are all good, Algerian indigenous agriculturalists, both Arab and Berber are only here as victims (especially the Arab as the Kabyle are pronounced to be favored) and the pied noirs are all les grand colons, with huge estates, when in fact the vast portion of European settlers lived in considerable poverty at what could be charitably described as a petit bourgeouis level.. The very long and tortured history of the various North African forestry services is a rendered into a manichean fight between pro and anti native, and even this is reduced to acceptance of a narrative of desertification. Those who believe that Algeria can be made more agriculturally productive are the villains while those who believe that marginal semi nomadic stock raising is the best use of the land are the angels. This combine with a dramatic conflation of the Mahgreb's many ecological regions into one in polemic, no matter how carefully they are seperated in the authors geographical essay, and one gets a grossly distorted view.

An excellent example of this is that the Algerian Forest Service and those involved in the reforestation campaign were often in long drawn out conflicts with the Grand Colons, both private and corporate throughout the entire period. A situation only barely hinted at in the text.
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