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A Temperate EmpireMaking Climate Change in Early America$
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Anya Zilberstein

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190206598

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190206598.001.0001

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The Golden Mean

The Golden Mean

(p.19) 1 The Golden Mean
A Temperate Empire

Anya Zilberstein

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes the region’s historical biogeography, especially the ways in which the region’s unstable colonial boundaries after the fifteenth century complicated attempts to understand whether its climate was in the temperate zone. In the New World generally and in the Northeast in particular, knowledge about the ecological boundaries of the temperate zone was highly imprecise. Because no new cartographical representations of the regional climate were produced in this period, its true character was subject to competing textual descriptions. By the late eighteenth century, prolonged debates about the local climate drew attention to problems with the traditional cartography of the temperate zone. As local naturalists confronted increasing evidence of latitude’s inadequacy for understanding the wide range of variations within the temperate zone, they adapted ancient concepts, arguing that the regional climate’s peculiarity could be more fully understood through firsthand observation.

Keywords:   History of cartography, colonial maps, exploration, British Empire, empiricism, biogeography, local knowledge

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