Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

An Environmental History of Northeast Florida

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

An Environmental History of Northeast Florida

Article excerpt

An Environmental History of Northeast Florida. By James J. Miller. (Gainesville and other cities: University Press of Florida, c. 1998. Pp. xvi, 223. $49.95, ISBN 0-8130-1600-2.)

The scope of environmental history often appears daunting to other historians. Early works in the field covered regions as large as the South Atlantic states over several centuries. But in recent years environmental scholars have paradoxically tightened their focus to subregions and expanded their perspective to include major climatic changes. State archaeologist James J. Miller, following both of these trends, turns his attention in An Environmental History of Northeast Florida to 5,000 square miles on the coastal plain and examines the St. Johns River drainage since the last Ice Age. Miller walks the reader through major geologic forces, as well as archaeological research, with the illustrated assistance of forty-two maps. The arrival of the first people to live on the St. John's River (5,000 years ago) coincided with a climate that supported freshwater snails. Here the author sometimes chronicles agriculture and significant changes in social organization, however, without reference to the environment. From the archaeological perspective, the Spanish discoveries of the sixteenth century took place because Europeans "arrived with a highly developed social hierarchy" and developed two crucial technologies, namely, "weapons and seafaring" (p. 89).

Miller incorporates the records of four nations and contrasts their land-use practices. Not only did each Spanish entrada infect the Tocobaga, Timucuan, and Apalachee Indians with disease, but their plants and animals (particularly pigs) significantly recreated the landscape. The Spanish fort at St. …

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