William Cronon's 20th anniversary edition of "Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England," strives to analyze how the land and the people influenced each other and how those relationships shaped new England's communities. While the history of New England seems very complex, Cronon professes that his thesis is simple: "The shift from Indian to European dominance in New England entailed important changes "well known to historians" in the ways these peoples organized their lives, but it also involved fundamental reorganizations " less well known to historians "in the region's plant and animal communities"" (p. xv). In fact, when explained by Cronon it does seem to make common sense that the changes people made would undoubtedly, impact ecological systems as well. It is intriguing to consider the history of the United States not just from the Indian and colonists' perspective, but also from the perspective of the land and animals that were impacted. For example, as the Indians discovered commercialism, they hunted certain animals at a higher rate, not just for what their tribes needed. Naturally, this led to a decline in some animal populations, which in turn impacted the environment (p. 99). For a specific example, consider the beaver. Beavers have a low reproductive rate anyway and were highly desirable for trade, thus they were killed more frequently. As this happened, beaver dams were abandoned which impacted the surrounding land and waterways (p. 100). .
In the Preface, Cronon insists that this book should not be considered a history of New England Indians or on Indian-colonial relations (p. xvi). However, whether intentional or not, Cronon does include many historical facts regarding those areas of study. It's unclear how the ecological changes could be covered in fact, without some background or historical perspective on what the peoples of the time were doing (as historians understand it).