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 the settler 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 mass transfer 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 the Industrial 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 America and 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 most successfully, 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.
"Belich's well-paced, vivid writing style makes what might otherwise be a dry analysis of figures gleaned from secondary sources quite digestible...There is much here to interest historians of the West and historians of comparative and transnational settler societies generally. Belich's revisioning of the British settler colonies as the British West and his persuasively argued case for a dynamic between metropole and colony, in which the settler society was the active agent, make his most recent book an important contribution to the field." --The Western Historical Quarterly
"A fascinating and accessible volume...Replenishing the Earth is a rewarding book that enables readers to re-situate and reconsider stories of settlement and expansion that they might think they already know well." --The Annals of Iowa
"A great contribution to large-scale history: constantly sparkling in its style, humorous, and offering profound new insights. A magnificent book."--Jared Diamond, UCLA Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the best sellers Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse
"A provocative, empirically sound reexamination of the expansion of the English-speaking world in the late 19th century." -- CHOICE
"A comprehensive survey of and challenge to the immense historiography on Anglophone settler expansions of the long nineteenth century...Teachers will find Replenishing the Earth a rich and provocative source at all collegiate levels...A goldmine for the particulars of growth and expansion." --World History Bulletin
"Useful not just for scholars comparing settler societies but for everyone working on nineteenth-century North America or Australasia...an impressive contribution both to settler
history and to world history." -- American Historical Review
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
June 24, 2009
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