The Cultural Landscape Engineers: Humans and Environment in the Maroochy District, 1850 – 1950

Alcorn, Berenis Cecile (2008). The Cultural Landscape Engineers: Humans and Environment in the Maroochy District, 1850 – 1950 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Alcorn, Berenis Cecile
Thesis Title The Cultural Landscape Engineers: Humans and Environment in the Maroochy District, 1850 – 1950
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Clive Moore
Dr Geoffrey Ginn
Total pages 318
Subjects 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract This thesis is an environmental and local history of a small coastal region, the Maroochy District, in Queensland, Australia. It is a detailed study of land settlement and land usage from 1850 to 1950. The vital strand of environment is added to the history of land usage, and the concept of cultural landscape is employed as an analytic tool. The thesis also incorporates the development of the built urban environment, often a neglected component of environmental history, as integral to the analysis and interpretation of the transformation of the rural cultural landscape. The study does not focus on any single theory of causality to explain the region’s development into a modern cultural landscape. The intention has been to move environmental history away from generalisations found in nationwide and global environmental history, to a focus on the local regional level.

The presence of cultural landscapes in geophysical regions raises questions concerning the history of their formation and growth. This history of the Maroochy District enables a classic description of the evolution of a natural to a man-made environment and an interpretative, analytic history of a cultural landscape. The transformation of the landscape occurred as a result of the effect of the human-environment relationship on land usage. This investigation into and description of the state of the natural and man-made environment as well as the analysis of the reasons and methods used for shaping the landscape emphasises the changes in land usage that took place. The manner of the management arrangements, such as technology, government policies and decisions, economic circumstances, socio-cultural trends and exploitation of the natural resources, stress the role of
humans as the dominant partner that brought about the transformation. A concern with the socioeconomic attitudes of some of the players in the process of change (individuals, groups and institutions) prevailing at the time infuses a sense of living interaction between the human factor and the environment.

While the assumption that human agency interacting with environment underlaid the transformation of the Maroochy District is validated, the active role on the part of the natural 5 environment is not neglected. The inclusion of the autonomous independent energies of the nonhuman environment — floods, droughts and cyclones — adds another dimension to human preoccupation with transformation of the landscape. The portrayal of the environment as an active player in the interaction of nature with human agency is interpreted through human attitudes and values because natural changes are beyond human control. This historical analysis and interpretation of the interaction between the environment and human agents during the region’s development towards a cultural landscape contributes to the environmental history genre.
The focus is on transformation and the manner in which human agency interacted with the natural environment to shape the cultural landscape.

Chapter 1 covers the initial years of European contact (1820-1868) when there was an unsuccessful attempt to establish pastoral activity as a staple industry. Chapter 2 explores the initial impact that timber harvesting had on the environment from 1860-1890 as well as the establishment of an embryonic urban nucleus. Chapter 3 deals with the pioneering settler phase (1860-1890) when there was an increase in human interaction with the environment. Chapter 4 presents the commencement of urbanisation that took place between 1860 and 1890. Chapter 5 explores the stabilisation of the cultural landscape through implementation of the intensive agrarian development via the sugar, fruit and dairying industries in relation to environmental conditions from 1890-1950. Chapter 6 examines the consolidation of the urban settlements, both as service centres for human agents and built components of the environment, and their contribution to the moulding of the landscape during the same time frame. The Conclusion is an overview of the causal effects that influenced the interactions of human agency and the environment, as well as how these factors encouraged or discouraged the processes that resulted in the establishment and stabilisation of a rural cultural landscape. The suggestion is made that there is a need for the rewriting of the history of rural regions that moves beyond simply being an epic of economic progress based on human triumph over nature. Another historical benefit is predicted —a detailed regional insight that can be tested against the generalisations of global and nationwide environmental histories.
Keyword landscape, human agency, environment, agrarian development, timber, urbanisation, settlers

 
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