A Caltech Library Service

Atlantic Iron: Wood Scarcity and the Political Ecology of Early English Expansion

Pluymers, Keith (2016) Atlantic Iron: Wood Scarcity and the Political Ecology of Early English Expansion. William and Mary Quarterly, 73 (3). pp. 389-426. ISSN 0043-5597. doi:10.5309/willmaryquar.73.3.0389.

Full text is not posted in this repository. Consult Related URLs below.

Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Fears of wood scarcity were common in early modern England, and proponents of colonial expansion into Ireland and Virginia drew on these anxieties to justify their enterprises and to solicit support for projects exploiting colonial woods. They argued that Ireland and, later, Virginia were the edges of a wooden frontier. Closely examining the connections between ironworks in Virginia, southwest Ireland, and the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries reveals a more complex political ecology that transcends broad concepts of scarcity and abundance. Contemporaries disagreed about the extent and severity of English wood scarcity. Colonial ironworks competed against each other and with domestic and European producers. Many investors in and leaders of ironworks understood that to compete on quality and price they needed to exploit regulatory differences, forge commercial connections with other producers and merchants, and secure access to markets, materials, and expertise. The Virginia Company's attempts to build ironworks, culminating in a short-lived project at Falling Creek, demonstrate that early Virginia colonists saw their woods through an Atlantic lens and understood that North American natural abundance needed to be made, not just discovered.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle
Additional Information:© 2016 Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Keith Pluymers is Howard E. and Susanne C. Jessen Postdoctoral Instructor in the Humanities at the California Institute of Technology. This article was produced with the financial support of the University of Southern California, the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, and an Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellowship at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS). The author would like to thank participants in the VHS colloquium where he first conceived of this piece, particularly Andrew Perchard, who provided feedback at this earliest stage and again on a later draft. He is grateful to the staffs at the Huntington Library, VHS, National Library of Ireland, Chatsworth House, Gloucestershire Archives, and National Archives, U.K., for their assistance. Thanks to Peter Mancall and Cynthia Herrup for guidance and commentary over multiple versions of this piece. Thanks also to Karin Amundsen, Eric Ash, Nick Gliserman, Lindsay O'Neill, Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, Joan Redmond, Jennifer Wells, and Natale Zappia for reading and commenting. Finally, the author would like to thank the anonymous readers for the William and Mary Quarterly for their insights.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
University of Southern California (USC)-Huntington Early Modern Studies InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Andrew W. Mellon FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160912-083859784
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Atlantic Iron: Wood Scarcity and the Political Ecology of Early English Expansion Keith Pluymers The William and Mary Quarterly Vol. 73, No. 3 (July 2016), pp. 389-426
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:70265
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:12 Sep 2016 19:43
Last Modified:11 Nov 2021 04:26

Repository Staff Only: item control page