The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress

An Environmental History

By Cameron Muir

© 2014 – Routledge

230 pages | 44 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415731584
pub: 2014-05-20
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Hardback: 9780415731577
pub: 2014-05-27
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About the Book

Food and the global agricultural system has become one of the defining public concerns of the twenty-first century. Ecological disorder and inequity is at the heart of our food system. This thoughtful and confronting book tells the story of how the development of modern agriculture promised ecological and social stability but instead descended into dysfunction. Contributing to knowledge in environmental, cultural and agricultural histories, it explores how people have tried to live in the aftermath of ‘ecological imperialism’.

The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress: An environmental history journeys to the dry inland plains of Australia where European ideas and agricultural technologies clashed with a volatile and taunting country that resisted attempts to subdue and transform it for the supply of global markets. Its wide-ranging narrative puts gritty local detail in its global context to tell the story of how cultural anxieties about civilisation, population, and race, shaped agriculture in the twentieth century. It ranges from isolated experiment farms to nutrition science at the League of Nations, from local landholders to high profile moral crusaders, including an Australian apricot grower who met Franklin D. Roosevelt and almost fed the world.

This book will be useful to undergraduates and postgraduates on courses examining international comparisons of nineteenth and twentieth century agriculture, and courses studying colonial development and settler societies. It will also appeal to food concerned general readers.

Reviews

'Cameron Muir has produced a brilliant, far-reaching book that combines environmental and agricultural approaches to urgent questions about food politics and land management. This is a terrific work of historically textured, geographically immersed story-telling that also has a strong conceptual payoff in debunking resilient myths about what it would take to feed the world. Muir's conclusions will reverberate across disciplines and national borders.'Rob Nixon, University of Wisconsin, USA

'In his gripping account of the failures of European agriculture on the western plains of New South Wales, Cameron Muir challenges our assumptions about the social and environmental outcomes of agricultural progress. How can global food security be maintained, given that modern farming technologies can ‘break’ places? Muir’s perceptive and fresh analysis alerts us to why the lessons of the past are so crucial for the future management of our environments.' Kate Darian-Smith, University of Melbourne, Australia

Table of Contents

Introduction Foreword by Iain McCalman and Libby Robin 1. Hooves 2. Bores 3. Scrub 4. Wheat 5. Dust 6. Reeds 7. Cotton Conclusion

About the Author

Cameron Muir is Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National University and the National Museum of Australia. From 2013 to 2014, he was Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, and a visiting scholar at The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE),part of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

The Routledge Environmental Humanities series is an original and inspiring venture recognising that today’s world agricultural and water crises, ocean pollution and resource depletion, global warming from greenhouse gases, urban sprawl, overpopulation, food insecurity and environmental justice are all crises of culture.

The reality of understanding and finding adaptive solutions to our present and future environmental challenges has shifted the epicenter of environmental studies away from an exclusively scientific and technological framework to one that depends on the human-focused disciplines and ideas of the humanities and allied social sciences.

We thus welcome book proposals from all humanities and social sciences disciplines for an inclusive and interdisciplinary series. We favour manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. The readership comprises scholars and students from the humanities and social sciences and thoughtful readers concerned about the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Khanam Virjee (khanam.virjee@tandf.co.uk), to submit proposals.

Series Editors:

Professor Iain McCalman,  University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of Cambridge, UK, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, University of Nottingham, UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Sydney, Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, American Museum of Natural History, New York, US, Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Paul Warde, University of East Anglia, UK, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Deborah Bird Rose, University of New South Wales, Australia, Sverker Sorlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA

 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUS068000
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUS072000
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUS099000
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics
POL044000
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy