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Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the…

de James Belich

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Why are we speaking English? Replenishing the Earth gives a new answer to that question, uncovering a 'settler revolution' that took place from the early nineteenth century that led to the explosive settlement of the American West and its forgotten twin, the British West, comprising thesettler dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.Between 1780 and 1930 the number of English-speakers rocketed from 12 million in 1780 to 200 million, and their wealth and power grew to match. Their secret was not racial, or cultural, or institutional superiority but a resonant intersection of historical changes, including the sudden rise of masstransfer across oceans and mountains, a revolutionary upward shift in attitudes to emigration, the emergence of a settler 'boom mentality', and a late flowering of non-industrial technologies -wind, water, wood, and work animals - especially on settler frontiers. This revolution combined with theIndustrial Revolution to transform settlement into something explosive - capable of creating great cities like Chicago and Melbourne and large socio-economies in a single generation.When the great settler booms busted, as they always did, a second pattern set in. Links between the Anglo-wests and their metropolises, London and New York, actually tightened as rising tides of staple products flowed one way and ideas the other. This 're-colonization' re-integrated Greater Americaand Greater Britain, bulking them out to become the superpowers of their day. The 'Settler Revolution' was not exclusive to the Anglophone countries - Argentina, Siberia, and Manchuria also experienced it. But it was the Anglophone settlers who managed to integrate frontier and metropolis mostsuccessfully, and it was this that gave them the impetus and the material power to provide the world's leading super-powers for the last 200 years.This book will reshape understandings of American, British, and British dominion histories in the long 19th century. It is a story that has such crucial implications for the histories of settler societies, the homelands that spawned them, and the indigenous peoples who resisted them, that their fullhistories cannot be written without it.… (mais)
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This is the sort of sprawling history of everything that I tend not to often read these days but what Belich is offering is a really a theory of how we've had several centuries of predominance by English-speaking superpowers. Essentially, Great Britain and the United States were the economic winners of the Napoleonic wars and were able to take advantage of technology and finance to send wave after wave of population surges to assorted frontiers throughout the 19th century. From there, Belich detects an almost generational pattern of growth-forward settlement and city building, almost inevitably followed by a bust and only then followed a period of what Belich calls "recolonization" as the new frontiers begin to settle down into resource generators for their respective metropolitan capitals. Belich does have many examples of exceptions to this pattern but he's plowed through enough monographic material to make you believe that he's onto something. That the man writes with some genuine wit does help to lighten the load of what could otherwise be an insufferably pedantic exercise!

As for my main caveat I'd note that Belich tends to deal more with what the prospective settlers thought they were gaining and less with what they were running from. One of the salutatory points made by Joshua Freeman in his study of the giant factory entitled "Behemoth" was how authoritarian Britain was in the immediate decades after the end of the Napoleonic Wars; it's certainly food for thought. Seeing as Belich displays, at points, some personal irony about being a person of non-English descent writing about the English speaking peoples the role and motivation of the German-speaking people participating in the movable feast of Anglophone colonization is another point that someone should explicate upon. ( )
  Shrike58 | Aug 6, 2019 |
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Why are we speaking English? Replenishing the Earth gives a new answer to that question, uncovering a 'settler revolution' that took place from the early nineteenth century that led to the explosive settlement of the American West and its forgotten twin, the British West, comprising thesettler dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.Between 1780 and 1930 the number of English-speakers rocketed from 12 million in 1780 to 200 million, and their wealth and power grew to match. Their secret was not racial, or cultural, or institutional superiority but a resonant intersection of historical changes, including the sudden rise of masstransfer across oceans and mountains, a revolutionary upward shift in attitudes to emigration, the emergence of a settler 'boom mentality', and a late flowering of non-industrial technologies -wind, water, wood, and work animals - especially on settler frontiers. This revolution combined with theIndustrial Revolution to transform settlement into something explosive - capable of creating great cities like Chicago and Melbourne and large socio-economies in a single generation.When the great settler booms busted, as they always did, a second pattern set in. Links between the Anglo-wests and their metropolises, London and New York, actually tightened as rising tides of staple products flowed one way and ideas the other. This 're-colonization' re-integrated Greater Americaand Greater Britain, bulking them out to become the superpowers of their day. The 'Settler Revolution' was not exclusive to the Anglophone countries - Argentina, Siberia, and Manchuria also experienced it. But it was the Anglophone settlers who managed to integrate frontier and metropolis mostsuccessfully, and it was this that gave them the impetus and the material power to provide the world's leading super-powers for the last 200 years.This book will reshape understandings of American, British, and British dominion histories in the long 19th century. It is a story that has such crucial implications for the histories of settler societies, the homelands that spawned them, and the indigenous peoples who resisted them, that their fullhistories cannot be written without it.

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