A Landscape History of New England

Article excerpt

A Landscape History of New England, edited by Blake Harrison and Richard W. Judd, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2011. xii + 413pp., US$34.95 (hardback), ISBN: 978-0-262-01640-7

The edited volume, A Landscape History of New England, advances the multidisciplinary discussion of the diversity and complexities found within the material and conceptual components of New England's landscapes between 1800 and today. Editors Blake Harrison and Richard Judd designed three goals for the book. First, to show the effect of human imprint on New England's rural, urban, forest, mountain, and coastal landscapes and how humans imbue meaning onto these landscapes. Second, to demonstrate the variety of research methods and approaches scholars have recently used to study the region's historical landscapes. And third, to provide a sampling of scholarly works on the region's land uses and landscape changes. The editors also make a conscious effort to ensure that the book addresses themes of conservation, diversity, regional identity, collective memory, leisure, and human work as related to the material and symbolic dimensions of New England's landscapes.

Overall, A Landscape History of New England provides sufficient, insightful material necessary to accomplish the first two goals with excellence. In twenty-one chapters the contributing authors clearly explain their research approaches as well as ideas on the interplay between the material and the symbolic in landscapes, and between humans and nature. Their work is relatively free of excessive jargon, making the book accessible to a wide audience not well-versed in landscape studies.

The variety of theoretical lenses and analytical approaches from multiple disciplines, such as geography, geology, history, and sociology, serve as a major strength for this book. The chapters written by geographers fittingly represent the breadth of cultural geography's study of landscapes, applying theory from both traditional and contemporary cultural geography. For instance, readers will find works utilizing Donald Meinig's Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes to discuss New England's industrial landscapes, or Meinig's Core, Domain, and Sphere model to analyze the New England village as an American vernacular landscape. …