The Profit of the Earth: The Global Seeds of American Agriculture (University of Chicago Press, 2017) examines the social and political history of how...

The Profit of the Earth: The Global Seeds of American Agriculture (University of Chicago Press, 2017) examines the social and political history of how agricultural knowledge was created in the 19th century.  Over the course of the 19th century, rural America transformed into the familiar arrangement of large scale, mechanized mono-cropping for distant markets.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the Midwest, where the prairie, plowed into “Amber Waves of Grain,” came to signify all the promises of settler colonialism. The Profit of the Earth explains the creation of this arrangement by excavating the ways that farmers, settlers, and, bureaucrats learned about the earth and its possibilities as they sought a living, a profit, tax income, or national progress. In this way, Fullilove demonstrates that the advent of the American style of agriculture grew out of the co-optation and reworking of local forms of rural knowledge.

Courtney Fullilove is an Associate Professor of History and affiliated faculty in the Science in Society Program and the College of the Environment at Wesleyan University.


Lance C. Thurner is a doctoral candidate in History at Rutgers University, where he has recently defended his dissertation on race, medicine, and scientific exploration in 18th-century Mexico.


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