REPLENISHING THE EARTH C: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld Hardcover – 25 Jun 2009
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original and intelligent (Times Higher Education Supplement)
[A] vast and vastly interesting book. (Australian Journal of Politics and History)
Replenishing the Earth is the biggest, boldest, most truly global [of the] "British World" histories. Book of the week. (Stephen Howe, The Independent)
This is one of the most important works on the broad processes of modern world history to have appeared for years - arguably since Sir Charles Dilke's pioneering Greater Britain introduced a concept very like Belich's "Anglo-world" to his Victorian contemporaries in 1868 (Bernard Porter, Times Literary Supplement)
Replenishing the Earth possesses grandeur of vision. It is written with great gusto in a vigorous quest for explanations of vital phenomena. It is exhilarating and provocative reading and grapples with central historical questions at a structural level which leaves this reader cheering its sheer bravado. (Eric Richards, Reviews in History)
Original and intelligent...this book offers a novel explanation of the rise of the Anglo-world... Whatever the future holds, their past is compellingly told here. (Donald MacRaild, Times Higher Education Supplement)
A provocative, empirically sound reexamination of the expansion of the English-speaking world in the late 19th century. (CHOICE)
A comprehensive survey of and challenge to the immense historiography on Anglophone settler expansions of the long nineteenth century...Teachers will find Replenishing the Earth a rich and provocative source at all collegiate levels...A goldmine for the particulars of growth and expansion. (World History Bulletin)
Useful not just for scholars comparing settler societies but for everyone working on nineteenth-century North America or Australasia...an impressive contribution both to settler history and to world history. (American Historical Review)
Comprehensive, highly original...and always fascinating account of Greater Britains will to power, with which account scholars perforce will grapple for years to come. (Peter A. Coclanis, Journal of Interdisciplinary History)
A great contribution to large-scale history: constantly sparkling in its style, humorous, and offering profound new insights. A magnificent book. (Jared Diamond, UCLA, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of the best-sellers Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse)
Argued with wit and vigor, this ambitious book makes a provocative, multilayered contribution to comparative and transnational history. (Carl J. Guarneri, Journal of Diplomatic History)
About the Author
James Belich is professor of history at the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington. He previously held the inaugural Keith Sinclair Chair in History at the University of Auckland, and has held visiting positions at Cambridge, Melbourne, and Georgetown Universities. His earlier books, all award-winners, include a two volume general history of New Zealand, Making Peoples and Paradise Reforged, and The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict, winner of the Trevor Reese Prize for an outstanding work of imperial or commonwealth history published in the preceding two years.
Top customer reviews
Belich debunks the notion of unique Anglo virtues but he gives equally short shrift to those in post-colonial societies who wilfully distort the past out of embarrassment at their often enthusiastically pro-British histories. He reveals the importance of the colonies' vast land mass to Britain's industrial development, analyses the critical role played by London and New York in developing their respective "Empires" (often for no financial benefit to themselves), and identifies the various stages of colonisation, de-colonisation and re-colonisation. He backs this up with numerous case studies, including non-Anglo settler societies such as Argentina, Brazil and Siberia.
Anyone interested in the English-speaking world will learn a huge amount from this work.
The book also gives a much better sense of why many aspects of empire which we now take for granted developed as they did. Why did meat packing centre on Chicago? Why did imperial Britain get wool from Australia but sheep meat from New Zealand? Why did Melbourne and Sydney grow? Why did South Africa become so racist during the 20th century? How and why were the native inhabitants of America, Australia, New Zealand and the others handled? Why did slavery (in the US) and the convict system (in Australia) eventually die out? How did the progressive development of each of those countries from the clearing of virgin land to the emergence of modern sophisticated societies actually take place?
The book has lots of statistics throughout, and it's arguments are well-evidenced and referenced. This doesn't however make it dry or difficult to read - the figures are easily understood and emphasise the points being made. The author is also at pains to avoid racist or supremacist assumptions and explanations, and illustrates many points by reference to other colonising societies (such as the French, the Russians and the Chinese). He also pays due regard to the contributions made by migrants from other nationalities to the development of the British colonies and the US.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Belich was so successful at challenging received historical wisdom in his first book, "The New Zealand Wars" (1987) that his radical take on the 19th century conflict between the British and the Maori has become today's orthodoxy. However, Belich is not a revisionist for the sake of political correctness or provocation. "The New Zealand Wars", in which he awarded a number of pivotal battles to Maori tribes for the first time in (literally) recorded history, was first and foremost a towering feat of historical research.
Belich is a writer who does not allow the density of the subject matter to heavy his prose. This is his thesis: European settlement of the New World came in three successive waves - networks (especially of trade), empire (through conquest), and settlement; that it amounted to a `settler revolution', characterized by the spectacular growth of Anglophone peoples and culture across the globe; and that the settlers themselves were neither heroic nor especially villainous. Belich spells out how British world colonization involved four phases - incremental, explosive, decolonization, and recolonization - each shaped by identifiable social, political and economic forces. He brings forth as persuasive evidence the stories of four famed cities - New York, London, Chicago and Melbourne. (If Melbourne seems out of place, it shouldn't -- as Belich points out, Melbourne in 1890 was a mega-city, boasting a population greater than Madrid and Mexico City and, by a factor of nine, Los Angeles).
His story weaves together strands that are simultaneously riveting on their own and compelling as a whole. In his book "Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders, from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century" Belich is at his most compelling when describing the 'protein boom' which saw Maori society grow from three figures to four then five ("Hunters & Gardeners"). (All evolutionary biologists and macroeconomists should study his story technique). In "Replenishing the Earth" Belich stretches this treatment over four great cities and the context of their nations and the world at the time. You might call this "busting out theory" and indeed you could credit Belich as a historian who is "busting out" - reimagining, transforming, reforging.
"Replenishing the Earth" is a tour de force. Belich is well known to New Zealanders as an author and television presenter. He gets standing ovations from his students, and storied prizes from academia in Great Britain. With this wide-angled and keenly-edged book, international audiences who need to know their history will enthrall at discovering a historian and writer at the peak of his investigative power and creativity.
Belich describes an interesting model of settlement colonization that appears to characterize almost all anglophone settlement colonies. Initial exploration and establishment of relatively small colonies is followed by a boom that brings large numbers of immigrants and considerable investments to the colony. This is followed by a bust and the speculative bubble bursts, considerable personal and economic distress, and then considerable recovery as the colony develops a successful export economy of primary products directed at the metropolitan homeland. Belich repeatedly stresses the economic irrationality of these bubbles and criticizes the popular "staples" theory of settlement growth which argues for initial settlement driven by export oriented and economically rational behavior. He also stresses the key role of governments in facilitating settlement booms, often in the face of unfavorable economics. Belich also stresses that indigenous resistance was often more successful than usually described, though as he is careful to specify, indigenous tragedy considerably outweighed indigenous agency.
This is a convincing set of analyses based on a very large volume of prior scholarship. The bibliography is excellent. There are a couple of minor weaknesses. Belich has some discussion of the genesis of the industrialization and why it occurred in Britain/Europe. As is commonly the case, he doesn't discuss one key and unique feature, the distinctive European scientific-mathematical tradition. Belich opens this book with a short discussion of why English is one of the world's most common languages. The success of anglophone settler colonization is certainly a large part of the answer but its not the only one. One consequence of successful British imperialism, followed by decades of American hegemony, is that English is a successful lingua franca in several large non-anglophone areas such as Europe and India.
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