The traditional image of New Zealand is one of verdant landscapes with sheep grazing on lush green pastures. Indeed, as far back as the nineteenth century, promotional literature declared its soils to be rich, its weather invariably benign; whilst artists' paintings bathed it in an almost subtropical glow. Such representations, however, were at best partial, at worst unrealistic, for this landscape is almost entirely an artificial creation. The transformation of the New Zealand landscape took place as Britain became increasingly reliant on its overseas territories for supplies of food and raw material. All over the Empire indigenous plants were replaced with 'English grasses', to provide the worked up products of pasture - meat, butter, cheese, wool and hides. These 'seeds of empire' were in the vanguard of colonial development and in New Zealand this process was carried to an extreme as swamps were drained and hundreds of thousands of hectares of rain forest were burnt and re-seeded with imported grasses. Seeds of Empire provides an innovative and challenging look at the impact of this European settlement and development of New Zealand's landscape and environment. In exploring how, why and with what consequences New Zealand was transformed into these 'empires of grass' the authors provide not just an exciting reappraisal of New Zealand's environmental history but a long overdue exploration of the significance of grass in the processes of sowing empire.
Seeds of Empire
The Environmental Transformation of New Zealand