Ecology and power in the age of empire: Europe and the transformation of the tropical world

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book provides the first wide-ranging environmental history of the heyday of European imperialism, from the late nineteenth century to the end of the colonial era. It focuses on the ecological dimensions of the explosive growth of tropical commodity production, global trade, and modern resource management—transformations that still visibly shape our world today—and how they were related to social, cultural, and political developments in Europe’s colonies. Covering the overseas empires of all the major European powers, it argues that tropical environments were not merely a stage on which conquest and subjugation took place, but were an essential part of the colonial project, profoundly shaping the imperial enterprise even as they were shaped by it. The story it tells is not only about the complexities of human experience, but also about people’s relationship with the ecosystems in which they were embedded: the soil, water, plants, and animals that were likewise a part of Europe’s empire. Although it shows that imperial conquest rarely represented a sudden bout of ecological devastation, it nonetheless demonstrates that modern imperialism marked a decisive and largely negative milestone for the natural environment. By relating the expansion of modern empire, global trade, and mass consumption to the momentous ecological shifts that they entailed, this book provides a historical perspective on the vital nexus of social, political, and environmental issues that we face in the twenty-first-century world.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages488
ISBN (Print)9780199590414, 9780198841883
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • ecology
  • environment
  • history
  • imperialism
  • Europe
  • tropical world
  • empire
  • natural resources
  • conservation
  • commodities


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