Cattle Colonialism

An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai'i

By John Ryan Fischer

280 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 6 halftones, 1 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3606-1
    Published: August 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2512-6
    Published: October 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2513-3
    Published: August 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4645-7
    Published: August 2015

Flows, Migrations, and Exchanges

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In the nineteenth century, the colonial territories of California and Hawai'i underwent important cultural, economic, and ecological transformations influenced by an unlikely factor: cows. The creation of native cattle cultures, represented by the Indian vaquero and the Hawaiian paniolo, demonstrates that California Indians and native Hawaiians adapted in ways that allowed them to harvest the opportunities for wealth that these unfamiliar biological resources presented. But the imposition of new property laws limited these indigenous responses, and Pacific cattle frontiers ultimately became the driving force behind Euro-American political and commercial domination, under which native residents lost land and sovereignty and faced demographic collapse.

Environmental historians have too often overlooked California and Hawai'i, despite the roles the regions played in the colonial ranching frontiers of the Pacific World. In Cattle Colonialism, John Ryan Fischer significantly enlarges the scope of the American West by examining the trans-Pacific transformations these animals wrought on local landscapes and native economies.

About the Author

John Ryan Fischer is visiting assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
For more information about John Ryan Fischer, visit the Author Page.


“[A] carefully researched book. . . . An information-packed resource.”--Choice

"Cattle Colonialism will certainly influence the next generation of scholars interested in more carefully delineating the intersection of ecological forces and local human actions, both of which shape our increasingly globalized history. As Fischer argues, it is not an 'either/or' narrative. Rather, the best environmental histories are 'both.' This is one of them."

--American Historical Review

“A sophisticated and complex study marked by a solid exposition.”--Journal of Pacific History

“Well-researched, well-written, and extremely readable. . . . Will appeal to those who teach environmental, social, western, agricultural, and American history, as well as anyone who enjoys a book that ties together so many unrelated items in a seamless and apparently effortless manner.”--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“Aficionados of western history will be drawn to Fischer’s stories of indigenous cowboys as well as his discussion of the hide and tallow trade.”--Western Historical Quarterly

“Breaks new ground. . . . Breath[es] life into the histories of Indigenous craftspeople that underpinned the cattle economy.”--American Historical Review

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @RyanFischer1050.