This article examines how settlers in New Zealand and California responded to seismic instability throughout the late nineteenth century. By interpreting a series of moments during which the foundations of settlement were shaken by earthquakes I argue that the economic temporality of colonial boom and bust inflected contemporary understandings of natural disaster. In earthquake country, the relationships between scientists and settlers, their environmental knowledge, and the physical world existed in a dynamic equilibrium. When earthquakes struck in opportune conditions settlers were quick to resume their speculation on land, scientists were inspired by upheaval, and artists found sublimity in instability. In times of doubt earthquakes induced a latent anxiety among settlers about the prospects of the colonial project. In this context natural disasters were framed as threats to growth or harbingers of decline. Read together, responses to earthquakes offer a new way into the environmental history of settler colonialism that places a form of creative destruction at the center of the colonial project on both sides of the Pacific Rim.
Settlers in Earthquake Country: Apprehending Instability in New Zealand and California
Jarrod Hore is co-director and postdoctoral fellow at the New Earth Histories Research Program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. His first book, Visions of Nature: How Landscape Photography Shaped Settler Colonialism is forthcoming with University of California Press. His work on wilderness photography, early environmentalism, and the Romantic tradition in the antipodes has been published in Australian Historical Studies and History Australia.
Jarrod Hore; Settlers in Earthquake Country: Apprehending Instability in New Zealand and California. Pacific Historical Review 1 February 2022; 91 (1): 1–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/phr.2022.91.1.1
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