All Things Harmless, Useful, and Ornamental

Environmental Transformation through Species Acclimatization, from Colonial Australia to the World

By Pete Minard

208 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 6 halftones, 4 tables

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5161-3
    Published: June 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5160-6
    Published: June 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5162-0
    Published: April 2019

Flows, Migrations, and Exchanges

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Species acclimatization--the organized introduction of organisms to a new region--is much maligned in the present day. However, colonization depended on moving people, plants, and animals from place to place, and in centuries past, scientists, landowners, and philanthropists formed acclimatization societies to study local species and conditions, form networks of supporters, and exchange supposedly useful local and exotic organisms across the globe.

Pete Minard tells the story of this movement, arguing that the colonies, not the imperial centers, led the movement for species acclimatization. Far from attempting to re-create London or Paris, settlers sought to combine plants and animals to correct earlier environmental damage and to populate forests, farms, and streams to make them healthier and more productive. By focusing particularly on the Australian colony of Victoria, Minard reveals a global network of would-be acclimatizers, from Britain and France to Russia and the United States. Although the movement was short-lived, the long reach of nineteenth-century acclimatization societies continues to be felt today, from choked waterways to the uncontrollable expansion of European pests in former colonies.

About the Author

Pete Minard is an honorary research fellow at La Trobe University’s Centre for the Study of the Inland.
For more information about Pete Minard, visit the Author Page.


“A nicely balanced account of the efforts of the Colony of Victoria to acclimatise ‘all things harmless, useful, and ornamental’, from the gold rushes of the 1850s until the late nineteenth century. . . . [An] excellent book.”—Historical Records of Australian Science

“Minard applies a whole field of new work in environmental history to questions long considered by the history of science in Australia, producing novel and more complex readings of topics that have occupied historians for decades.”—History Australia

“[All Things Harmless, Useful, and Ornamental] both updates existing acclimatization narratives and opens up further areas of investigation. Acclimatization, Minard shows, deserves renewed and increased attention from historians of science, environment, and empire alike.”—H-Net Reviews

“[Minard’s] study is especially strong on. . . . Placing Victorian acclimatization activities in the frame of environmental history and locating them within the contexts of the great city of Melbourne and the state of Victoria prior to their 1901 incorporation into the Commonwealth of Australia.”—Isis

“Tracing the development, dissemination and implementation of the ideas, ideologies and individuals behind Victorian acclimatization, and the conflicts between them, is the major contribution of this book.”—Agricultural History

"A good and much-needed study, this book helps us move beyond the general accounts offered by earlier scholars and come to a more nuanced understanding of acclimatization, and the changing, confused aims and ideas behind the movement. The study of acclimatization’s deep roots in the science of the period is useful, and by treating everything from Darwinian theory to the practical points of fish hatcheries, the text shows the varieties of knowledge, from fundamental principles to applied technology, the acclimatizers appealed to."--Thomas R. Dunlap, Texas A&M University