The Rise of Conservation in South Africa: Settlers, Livestock, and the Environment 1770-1950

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OUP Oxford, May 29, 2008 - Business & Economics - 456 pages
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The Rise of Conservation in South Africa is an innovative contribution to the growing comparative field of environmental history. Beinart's major theme is the history of conservationist ideas in South Africa. He focuses largely on the livestock farming districts of the semi-arid Karoo and the neighbouring eastern Cape grasslands, conquered and occupied by white settlers before the middle of the nineteenth century. The Cape, like Australia, became a major exporter of wool. Vast numbers of sheep flooded its plains and rapidly transformed its fragile natural pastures. Cattle also remained vital for ox-wagon transport and internal markets. Concerns about environmental degradation reached a crescendo in the early decades of the twentieth century, when a Dust Bowl of kinds was predicted, and formed the basis for far-reaching state intervention aimed at conserving natural resources. Soil erosion, overstocking, and water supplies stood alongside wildlife protection as the central preoccupations of South African conservationists. The book traces debates about environmental degradation in successive eras of South African history. It offers a reinterpretation of South Africa's economic development, and of aspects of the Cape colonial and South African states. It expands the understanding of English-speaking South Africans and their role both as farmers and as protagonists of conservationist ideas. The book is also a contribution to the history of science, exploring the way in which new scientific knowledge shaped environmental understanding and formed a significant element in settler intellectual life. It paints an evocative picture of the post-conquest Karoo, analysing the impact of self-consciously progressive farmers and officials in their attempts to secure private property, curtail transhumance and kraaling, control animal diseases, enhance water supplies, eradicate jackals, destroy alien weeds such as the prickly pear, and combat drought. It concludes by analysing conservationist interventions in the African areas, and discussing evidence for a stabilization of environmental conditions over the longer term.
 

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Contents

Livestock Farming and Environmental Regulation at the Cape
1
Chains of Knowledge and the Cape Vernacular 17701850
28
Colonial Science and the Origins of Conservation at the Cape 17701860
64
3 Fire Vegetation Change and Pastures 18601880
99
4 Vets Viruses and Environmentalism in the 1870s and 1880s
128
5 Water Irrigation and the State 18801930
158
Sheep Pastures and Predators 18901930
195
The Career of H S du Toit 18901930
235
Useful Plants and Invaders in the Livestock Economy 18901950
266
Sidney Rubidge at Wellwood GraaffReinet 19131952
304
10 Debating Conservation in the African Areas of the Cape 19201950
332
Debating Degradation over the Long Term Animals Veld and Conservation
367
Bibliographical Note
391
Select Bibliography of Secondary Sources
395
Index
403
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About the author (2008)


William Beinart is Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, University of Oxford