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date: 22 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter takes its inspiration from environmental history and cultural geography, bringing together the scholarship to date on the changing environments of North and South America. Its point of departure is the production of social space, in the Lefebvrian sense, and the cultural crafting of landscapes by both indigenous and colonial societies. Human societies in the Americas confronted a multitude of contrasting environments in deserts, forests, grasslands, river valleys, and mountainous slopes; over centuries, through different modes of appropriation and production, distinct cultures and communities altered those environments, creating new versions of “nature” in the landscapes of their fabrication and renewal. Bridging the late pre-conquest and early colonial developments, this chapter will present the salient features of landscape creation, destruction, and renewal through horticulture, hunting, gathering, industry, and evolving patterns of settlement. Attention will also be paid to the meanings ascribed to landscapes and natural features by indigenous and colonial actors, underscoring the close association of environment and culture in the historical development of colonial societies in Iberian America.

Keywords: environment, spatial borderlands, changing landscapes, cultural ecology, water management, arid lands, tropicality

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