John Ryan Fischer
An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai'i
University of North Carolina Press 2017
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Native American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in the American WestNew Books Network November 13, 2017 Sean Munger
John Ryan Fischer‘s book Cattle Colonialism: An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai’i (University of North Carolina Press, 2015) is a fascinating look at how a common animal—the cow—changed the landscapes, economies and peoples of both California and Hawai’i, and linked them together in unexpected ways, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. After the introduction of cattle into each of these societies by Europeans, not only did the cows bring ecological change, but they fundamentally altered how people lived, worked, earned their living and interacted with the world at large. As California’s and Hawai’i’s economies became increasingly focused on cattle, especially the hide and tallow industries in the 1820s and 30s, the changes both in the land and the people who worked it paved the way for broader colonial projects both by European countries and eventually the United States.
Ryan Fischer is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He specializes in environmental history, and studied under environmental and Early American history heavyweights Louis Warren and Alan Taylor at University of California Davis, which has one of the best environmental history programs in the nation.