Cover image for Burning bush : a fire history of Australia
Title:
Burning bush : a fire history of Australia
Author:
Pyne, Stephen J., 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Holt, [1991]

©1991
Physical Description:
xiv, 520 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780805014723
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Interprets Australian history from the perspective of fire and its destructive force, describing the interaction between fire, the Australian environment, and the country's human inhabitants.


Author Notes

Stephen J. Pyne is a professor at Arizona State University. The author of ten acclaimed books on environmental history, he won the 1995 "Los Angeles Times'" Robert Kirsch Award for his career contribution to arts & letters. He lives in Glendale, Arizona.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Pyne's interpretation of Australia furnishes a unique, ecological adjunct to such traditional histories as Robert Hughes' Fatal Shore (1986) and Donald Horne's Story of the Australian People (1985). The author shows how fire shaped the continent during its formation and how human beings--first the aborigines with their firesticks, and later the Europeans--have produced and controlled the bushfires that periodically ravage that arid land. Not solely a history of fire management, Burning Bush examines the link between fire and the psyche of the Australian people. In this light, Australia emerges as a primeval, Promethean environment that has scorched its animals, plants, and population with an igneous brand. ~--George Eberhart


Publisher's Weekly Review

In Australia, known as the fire continent, much of the native flora responds to fire as species elsewhere do to rain. Pyne ( Fire on the Rim ) shows how fire has shaped both the natural and social history of the land down under. In a brilliant paleontologic reconstruction, based on existing ashes and charcoal, he traces the evolution of vegetation before human habitation. In poor soils and drought, plants acquired traits to cope with environmental stress; fire did not kill the ecosystem, but brought it to life, mobilizing nutrients and reorganizing habitats. Forty thousand years ago, aborigines moved into a dramatically changing environment and used fire as their primary tool for flushing game and shaping habitats. Pyne chronicles the arrival of Europeans and the introduction of agriculture, from which time the fire history of Australia changes to systems of management and protection. The book provides an exhaustive, illuminating account of a unique and exotic environment. Illustrations. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

This history by a noted environmental historian and author of The Ice ( LJ 11/15/86) acknowledges the importance of fire to Australia both biologically and culturally. It interprets major fires, the use of fire by the aborigines and European settlers, changing attitudes toward fire control and prevention, and conflict over government policies like the ``Australian strategy'' of aerial ignition. While the book is arranged chronologically into four major parts, the narrative within sections is topical and episodic. The material is thought-provoking but the treatment is a bit prolix. The work most similar to this book is Pyne's Fire in America ( LJ 9/15/82), which also aims to integrate fire history into the nation's general history.-- Janice Dunham, John Jay Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Pyne offers a unique perspective on Australia that sees the element of fire, both natural and anthropogenic, as the determining factor in the history of the continent. With extremely hot, dry summers Australia is naturally fire prone, and huge lightning bushfires of enormous proportions have produced a wide range of consequences for flora and fauna alike. Australian Aborigines saw fire as a tool of central importance and recorded its properties in stories, songs, ceremonies, paintings, and rituals. Their ancestral Dreamtime was at least partially conceived and animated by fire. British immigrants brought their own knowledge of fire and learned more from the Aborigines. Thus, in the 19th and 20th centuries fire became a factor of ever-increasing importance in creating not only the environment but also patterns of human habitation and development. Detailed, well researched, and well documented, the book will appeal primarily to readers interested in environmental history. Early chapters dealing with fire as a component of Aboriginal and Anglo-Saxon culture also will appeal to social historians and anthropologists. With maps, illustrations, and complete index, this well-written volume is valuable for both its ideas and its statistics. All levels. W. W. Reinhardt; Randolph-Macon College