Review: The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush

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Review: The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush By Kathryn Morse Reviewed by Robert D. Hook University of Idaho, USA Kathryn Morse. The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2003. 290 pp. ISBN 0-295-98329-9 (cloth). US$29.95. Alkaline paper.

The Nature of Gold! What a great title for a book. It makes one want to pick up the book and at least browse it. But the title is the lure. This book can bite like the gold bug. I found myself visualizing the passes and the rivers that these hardy and brave people took to get to the gold fields and then the areas they had to work to find the gold. In fact, I found this book more interesting than many fictional accounts of the Yukon gold rush.

Kathryn Morse, an assistant professor of history at Middlebury College in Vermont, tells the story through contemporary newspaper accounts and advertisements, and diaries and letters of the miners and others who experienced the challenges of reaching, working in, and surviving the harsh environment of the gold fields. Morse shows why the miners left their homes in the industrial world to gain their freedom from its constraints, and how they found themselves recreating the same situations in their world of gold mining. It is a story about the environment and how the miners, seeing it only in terms of their own needs, destroyed and changed the ecosystem as they mined for the gold. …