This thesis on the Australian Pastoral Company (APC) in the Maranoa district of Queensland from 1888 to 1940 is an institutional/regional/environmental history which attempts to move the growing narrative of environmental history away fi-om nation-wide generalisations to the local and regional levels. It is an analysis from a historical perspective, of the reaction of one company to environmental influences in a particular region. As a result, the study contributes to the relatively new genre of environmental history which is still establishing its methodologies.
The APC's direction from its shareholders in England, the management structures in Australia, and the company's environmental practices, are analysed in the context of the Maranoa District where the APC held extensive holdings. The thesis shows that while people can be destructive as well as constructive in their interactions with nature, the constant factor is the unpredictability of nature. Humans need to work within the parameters of this unpredictability in order to survive. In this study, the 'human' aspect includes those people associated with the Maranoa - Aborigines (prior to the APC), and the Europeans who moved to or had connections with the district - explorers, selectors, government officials, and APC employees, shareholders, and contractors. The 'nature' aspect includes the land and natural influences associated with it - droughts, floods and fire. Relative to both aspects are the human-induced influences affecting nature - ringbarking, stocking, buildings, prickly pear and rabbits.
The time frame has been chosen because the APC bought into the Maranoa in 1888 and by the outbreak of World War 11 had experienced major technological, economic and administractive changes which provide a suitable framework for environmental history study. In the context of the 1888-1940 era, the APC were responsible lessees. It was a period, however, during which government and lessees considered that economic considerations were of more importance than environmental ones. A motivating force was the protection of the reputation of the company which would otherwise have received adverse criticism if it failed to adhere to government policy. Notwithstanding some objection, and with some reluctance, the company followed the policies with respect to ringbarking, resumptions, rents, fencing, stocking rates, prickly pear and rabbits.
Government ineptitude and policies associated with the land, however, were the biggest threats - from issues such as the delay in erecting the border rabbit fence, to the regulations it imposed for ringbarking, resumptions, rents and stocking rates. The government was more interested in closer settlement and income from rents than conserving the land. The APC protected its business by working within these rules; endeavouring to retain the best land during resumptions and land exchanges, abandoning heavily infested prickly pear areas, lobbying against rent increases, and diversifying from sheep to cattle.
From a 1990s perspective, the company seemed to have an 'exploitative' effect on the land - leaving poorer land to struggling selectors and abandoning the heavily infested prickly pear areas. On the other hand, it could be argued that the land which the company retained was not adversely affected in comparison with the land which it had abandoned. Certainly ringbarking changed the landscape but the country was not overstocked and the problems of prickly pear and rabbits were addressed within government regulations.
That the land was not adversely affected under the APC, however, had more to do with the size ofthe company's holdings and the company's approach to improving the quality and quantity of wool rather than its approach to conservation. Notwithstanding such criticism, the company did in fact produce favourable environmental outputs, even by 1990s standards. For instance, by increasing the company's holdings, establishing more watering facilities, improving the quality and quantity of wool, combating disease and maintaining efficent management, the land did not need to be overstocked and thus overgrazed. Especially in the context of the attitudes, beliefs and policies at the time, the company had respect for the land and believed it was working with the natural environment, not against it.
As to the structure of the thesis, a contextual analysis in relation to the historiography of environmental history is discussed in the introduction. The study of the natural environment begins in chapter 1 with an investigation into the soil, vegetation and climate of the Maranoa. Although the study commences primarily from 1888, an earlier context is necessary for a full appreciation of the changes to the landscape. Thus the Aborigines, their lives in the Maranoa, together with their influence on the land, especially in relation to firing, are analysed. The human/culture aspect continues with European exploration and settlement of the Maranoa (chapter 2). Establishment of the APC in England together with the contribution by significant employees in England and Australia are important aspects of the shady (chapter 3). The nature aspect is highlighted again in the natural environmental influences of droughts and floods (chapter 4). Those influences induced by humans - grazing, ringbarking, bores, buildings, and fences (chapter 5), prickly pear (chapter 6), and rabbits (chapter 7) - are also given particular attention.
Environmental influences also called for people to develop specialised skills associated with fencing, tank and artesian bore sinking, ringbarking, prickly pear eradication, rabbit and dingo trapping and poisoning (chapters 5,6,7). In order to assess these influences in the broader context of the pastoral industry and Australia's economy, developments in science, technology and exports are analysed (chapter 8). The conclusion summarises the main arguments, reiterates the historiographical context and makes suggestions for future possible directions for environmental history.