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How Africans and Their Descendants Participated in Establishing Open-Range Cattle Ranching in the Americas

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Following the introduction of cattle into the Caribbean in 1493, open-range ranching proliferated in a series of frontiers across the grasslands of the Americas through the nineteenth century, establishing novel social and environmental relations with consequences that persist to the present. While historians have recognised that Africans and Afro-descendants were involved in the establishment of those ranching frontiers, the emphasis has been on their labour rather than creative participation. Now material culture and other primary sources that complement archival documents have begun to reveal a fuller understanding of their roles. Two case studies illustrate how such complementary types of evidence reveal that African and Afro-descended herders took active roles in the processes of innovation regarding use of the lasso from horseback in North America and water-lifting technology in South America. Such contributions were critical to the expansion of open-range cattle throughout the Americas and consequent environmental transformations.
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Keywords: Africans; Argentina; Great Plains; New Spain; Pampas; cattle ranching; slavery

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 0.698. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.806.
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