New Book | No Wood, No Kingdom

Posted in books by Editor on August 17, 2021

From Penn Press:

Keith Pluymers, No Wood, No Kingdom: Political Ecology in the English Atlantic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021), 296 pages, ISBN 978-0812253078, $50 / £40.

In early modern England, wood scarcity was a widespread concern. Royal officials, artisans, and common people expressed their fears in laws, petitions, and pamphlets, in which they debated the severity of the problem, speculated on its origins, and proposed solutions to it. No Wood, No Kingdom explores these conflicting attempts to understand the problem of scarcity and demonstrates how these ideas shaped land use, forestry, and the economic vision of England’s earliest colonies.

Popular accounts have often suggested that deforestation served as a ‘push’ for English colonial expansion. Keith Pluymers shows that wood scarcity in England, rather than a problem of absolute supply and demand, resulted from social conflict over the right to define and regulate resources, difficulties obtaining accurate information, and competing visions for trade, forestry, and the English landscape. Domestic scarcity claims did encourage schemes to develop wood-dependent enterprises in the colonies, but in practice colonies competed with domestic enterprises rather than supplanting them. Moreover, close studies of colonial governments and the actions of individual landholders in Ireland, Virginia, Bermuda, and Barbados demonstrate that colonists experimented with different, often competing approaches to colonial woods and trees, including efforts to manage them as long-term resources, albeit ones that nonetheless brought significant transformations to the land.

No Wood, No Kingdom explores the efforts to knot together woods around the Atlantic basin as resources for an English empire and the deep underlying conflicts and confusion that largely frustrated those plans. It speaks to historians of early modern Europe, early America, and the Atlantic World but also offers key insights on early modern resource politics, forest management, and political ecology of interest to readers in the environmental humanities and social sciences as well as those interested in colonialism or economic history.

Keith Pluymers is Assistant Professor of History at Illinois State University.


Note on Spelling and Dates

Introduction: A Wooden World
1  Scarcity, Conflict, and Regulation in England’s Royal Forests
2  Creating Scarcity in Ireland’s Woods
3  The Political Ecology of Woods in Virginia
4  Conservation and Commercialization in Bermuda
5  Deforestation and Preservation in Early Barbados
6  Toward an Atlantic or Imperial Political Ecology?

Archives Consulted

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