The Great Meadow Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord Brian Donahue

Series:
Yale Agrarian Studies Series
Format:
Paperback
Publication date:
08 Jun 2007
ISBN:
9780300123692
Dimensions:
344 pages: 254 x 177 x 19mm
Illustrations:
40 b&w illustrations, 12 colour maps

The farmers of colonial New England have been widely accused of farming extensively, neglecting manure, wearing out their land, and moving on. But did they? And if so, when and why? Brian Donahue offers an innovative, accessible, and authoritative history of the early farming practices of Concord, Massachusetts, and challenges the long-standing notion that colonial husbandry degraded the land. In fact, he argues, the Concord community of farmers achieved a remarkably successful and sustainable system of local production. Donahue describes in precise detail--using among other tools an innovative historical geographical information system (GIS) method--how land was settled and how mixed husbandry was developed in Concord. By reconstructing several farm neighborhoods and following them through many generations, he reveals the care with which farmers managed the land, soil, and water. He concludes that ecological degradation came to Concord only later, when nineteenth-century economic and social forces undercut the environmental balance that earlier colonial farmers had nurtured.

Brian Donahue is associate professor of American environmental studies on the Jack Meyerhoff Foundation, Brandeis University.

"I used The Great Meadow in my graduate seminar in American Environmental History last winter, and it was a great success. I think the book appealed to the students because it is so grounded in the real world of living on the land in colonial New England, and also because it reveals the previously ignored land wisdom of colonial farmers. This is a good teaching book for both graduate students and upper-level history majors."-Mart Stewart, Western Washington University