Thesis

Carved out of wood: exploiting the forests in the Anglo-Atlantic and the splinters that followed, 1583-1776

Thesis (M.A., History)--California State University, Sacramento, 2015.

This work demonstrates the consequences of conflict over timber between the British imperial government and Anglo-Atlantic colonies. English colonists in the North Atlantic quickly turned to the available forestlands to meet their needs for survival and desire for profit, but later commercial growth in the empire placed at odds the colonists’ immediate intentions for the forests and the strategic purposes outlined by the English government. This study divides timber use into three broadly defined categories: domestic, commercial, and strategic. Expanding upon related historical scholarship, this thesis compares these uses in a way that most current historical literature does not, allowing analysis of conflict over timber in the early modern Anglo-Atlantic. Using government documents and contemporary accounts of explorers, colonial leaders, and travelers in the Anglo-Atlantic, the perception, utilization, and consequences of timber harvesting to the political economy and environment of the colonial Anglo-Atlantic are traced. This thesis shows that many colonists and merchants operated with veritable economic impunity for over a century despite British policies that should have restricted their actions. However, British attempts to control the use and sale of timber contributed to mainland colonists’ feelings of oppression. Timber exploited from North American forests laid the foundations for the early Anglo-Atlantic economy, and the strategic demands on these forests created tensions within the empire that contributed to the American Revolution.

This work demonstrates the consequences of conflict over timber between the British imperial government and Anglo-Atlantic colonies. English colonists in the North Atlantic quickly turned to the available forestlands to meet their needs for survival and desire for profit, but later commercial growth in the empire placed at odds the colonists’ immediate intentions for the forests and the strategic purposes outlined by the English government. This study divides timber use into three broadly defined categories: domestic, commercial, and strategic. Expanding upon related historical scholarship, this thesis compares these uses in a way that most current historical literature does not, allowing analysis of conflict over timber in the early modern Anglo-Atlantic. Using government documents and contemporary accounts of explorers, colonial leaders, and travelers in the Anglo-Atlantic, the perception, utilization, and consequences of timber harvesting to the political economy and environment of the colonial Anglo-Atlantic are traced. This thesis shows that many colonists and merchants operated with veritable economic impunity for over a century despite British policies that should have restricted their actions. However, British attempts to control the use and sale of timber contributed to mainland colonists’ feelings of oppression. Timber exploited from North American forests laid the foundations for the early Anglo-Atlantic economy, and the strategic demands on these forests created tensions within the empire that contributed to the American Revolution.

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