The Ecological Atlantic

J. R. McNeill

in The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199210879
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 The Ecological Atlantic

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In the Atlantic world in the centuries from 1450 to 1850, tumultuous changes in ecology had outsized impacts on human affairs. Historians have already laid useful foundations for an environmental history of the Atlantic world. Atlantic West Africa from Senegambia to the Gulf of Guinea participated in the ecological Atlantic by providing a few cultigens to the Americas, its share of pathogens (notably malaria and yellow fever), and above all by supplying the majority of the workforce — several million slaves and their descendants — who would remake the ecology of the Atlantic. This article examines pan-Atlantic processes such as climate change. It also summarises the important themes which are the most central to the whole subject: the Columbian Exchange, including its often-neglected African components, and the ecology of plantations, slavery, and slave trades. This provides some sampling of the ecological regions of the Atlantic, as well as of the commodities and cultural processes involved.

Keywords: Atlantic world; ecology; environmental history; West Africa; Americas; pathogens; climate change; Columbian Exchange; slavery; plantations

Article.  7947 words. 

Subjects: History ; Environmental History

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