A Temperate Empire
Making Climate Change in Early America
Reviews and Awards
Winner of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historian's Book Prize
"Zilberstein astutely recognizes the signi?cant" - and often unacknowledged
"Why would anyone emigrate to North America in the seventeenth century? Anya Zilberstein complicates our understanding in...a short exploration of contemporary debates regarding the nature of North American climate and the question of how European and African peoples would adapt to life in the Americas....A Temperate Empire is a useful contribution to our knowledge of how educated men struggled to make sense of American weather as global empire undermined ancient theory....Succeeds as a contribution to the wider literature on early modern empire and the fitful rise of science." - John L. Brooke, American Historical Review
"The lessons of this book are many and its deep history crackles with resonances in the present." - Adam Bobbette, Times Literary Supplement
"Anya Zilberstein has offered an extraordinarily sensitive and textured treatment of the early modern discussion of climate and climate change in A Temperate Empire. She successfully combines the history of science and environmental history to provide an account that is relevant both to modern-day discussions about climate change and to early American environmental history...Zilberstein's book is beautifully written and enjoyable, as well as rigorous and insightful." - James Bergman, H-Net
"Ideological and political debates over climate and climate change have a long and rich history, as Anya Zilberstein illustrates in this elegantly written study. Though centered on late eighteenth-century New England and Nova Scotia, A Temperate Empire ranges widely in space and time to elucidate the connections between race, nation, empire, and how people thought about climate during the Age of Enlightenment. A Temperate Empire is true to that place and time, yet also resonates with contemporary issues." - James D. Rice, author of Nature and History in the Potomac Country: From Hunter-Gatherers to the Age of Jefferson
"Anya Zilberstein vividly describes how European settlers in northeastern North America confronted the obstacles of harsh winters, poor soils, and short growing seasons. She shows them struggling to understand and master the rigorous environment of New England and Nova Scotia, while convincing themselves that they were improving the climate as they tamed the land. Her meticulously researched and timely account should be read by anyone who is interested in the environmental history of this part of the world." - Jan Golinski, University of New Hampshire
"As this original and imaginative study demonstrates, observers have long argued about the reasons for perceived shifts in nature. With crucial insights drawn from a vast range of primary materials, the historian of science Anya Zilberstein reveals how debates about the climate of the American northeast played a central role in transplanted Europeans' understanding of science and economics in the early modern age. Migrants to New England and Canada, as she argues, endured a 'trial by frost' that had long-term significance for the European effort to colonize and conquer North America." - Peter C. Mancall, author of Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson-A Tale of Mutiny and Murder in the Arctic
"A Temperate Empire shows the importance of climate in the cultural life of early America at the intersections of the natural sciences, political economy, colonial policy, and race theory. Startlingly, Zilberstein shows how colonists imagined that 'improving' the land through agriculture would make winters and summers moderate. The British Empire and the early American Republic emerge as enterprises animated by a drive to achieve climate change through and for an expanding frontier of settlement." - Richard Drayton, King's College London
"By working at the intersection of climate history and the histories of science and empire, Zilberstein is able to demonstrate that worries about climate change not only have a long genealogy but also originated in some unexpected places and often encouraged unconventional thinking about race and colonialism. She also restores climate and the many worries about it to the central place in Atlantic history that they deserve...while reminding us that humans have long yearned for the very global warming that many are now hoping to halt." - Ryan Jones, William and Mary Quarterly
"“A good read for upper-level undergraduates enrolled in an environmental history seminar. The book provides plenty of background on the role of natural history in elite colonial society and thus will do a fine job at guiding students to an understanding of the larger factors influencing the desire to know more about the climate of the northeast and how that knowledge might be used for political or economic purposes.” -Brian Payne, Canadian Historical Review "
"“Zilberstein's excellent history of American climate theory introduces a network of intellectual discourse whose participants, by the late eighteenth century, viewed humanity's control over nature with a sense of what might best be described as anxious triumphalism. The genius of this book lies in its seamless blending of American environmental history with that of early modern science.” -Strother Roberts, New England Quarterly "
"“Zilberstein's book is a welcome addition to current debates on climate change. By doing painstaking work on varying facets of how colonists and Europeans understood the climate and their ability to change it toward their own ends, Zilberstein has proven these historical actors had climate and humanity's ability to change it near the center of colonialism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Of course, the logic of agricultural improvers, that climate change can be achieved through increasing population and controlling an ever-increasing amount of land in rationalized and prescribed ways, turned out to be the greatest irony for these intellectuals. It may have been a goal to achieve climate change, but it was fundamentally intertwined with colonialism in a fundamental. As it turns out, the improvers were right. Humans can induce climate change.” Andrew Johnson, Cultures of Energy blog "