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date: 28 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the history of capitalism and how environmental historians might better integrate it into their teaching and scholarship. It argues that environmental historians can confront the root cause of many environmental problems by treating the social system as a historical artifact. Doing so, however, means reconstructing the elements of capitalism and seeing environmental change as social change as indistinguishable from social change. The history of capitalism remains controversial and characterized by two broad interpretations—the commercialization model and the Marxian. The chapter describes both, along with the historians’ representative of each, including Fernand Braudel, Joyce Appleby, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Immanuel Wallerstein, David Harvey, John Bellamy Foster, Robert Brenner, and the French Economists. This chapter offers environmental historians a way of deepening their own understanding and of addressing the assumptions of many students by linking land and labor, enclosure and colonization, peasants and Indians through a critical understanding of capitalism.

Keywords: capitalism, environmental history, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Fernand Braudel, Joyce Appleby, John Bellamy Foster, land, labor

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