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In the 200 years before the invention of steam power and the advent of the Industrial Revolution, early modern London was a coal-fired metropolis. The dirty fuel was burnt in both the hearths of individual households and in the furnaces of breweries, bakers, and glassmakers.
Grootplaas, a produce farm that specialises in citrus and numbers around 900 hectares in size, is the subject of Maxim Bolt’s latest monograph, Zimbabwe’s Migrants and South Africa’s Border Farms: The Roots of Impermanence.
Gregory Cushman’s preface opens with some bold claims. He suggests that the Black Death, the African Slave Trade, the Second World War and the harvesting of bird excrement deposits from islands in the Pacific oceans were of equal importance in world history.
Environmental historians take pride in the interdisciplinary character of their field. Yet they practice this interdisciplinarity mostly by drawing from methodologies and approaches from several disciplines. Rarer, and definitively more challenging, are the attempts to establish an actual dialogue between disciplines.
Stephen Mileson’s book is very timely, representing the first comprehensive study of medieval parks at a time when academic interest in aristocratic identity, social landscapes, hunting culture and environmental exploitation is blossoming.