Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History

By Ted Steinberg | Go to book overview

PREFACE

This book will try to change the way you think about American history. It deals with some familiar topics—colonization, the industrial revolution, slavery, the Civil War, consumerism—and some not so well-known—the Little Ice Age, horse manure, pig sties, fast food, lawns, SUVs, and garbage. I will argue that the natural world—defined here as plants and animals, climate and weather, soil and water—has profoundly shaped the American past.

Historians of course have not completely overlooked nature. Virtually every U.S. history textbook, for instance, has an obligatory section on Theodore Roosevelt and the conservation movement. Sometimes there is also a brief discussion of the environmental reforms that began in the 1960s. Nature as politics—that has long been the main concern. You are unlikely to learn anything about the role of climate or soil fertility in history. Little about how Americans and Native Americans before them went about the task of feeding themselves. Virtually nothing about pigs, chickens, cows, and corn—or hamburgers, despite the fact that McDonald's plays a major role in the lives of so many people. Nothing about global warming or cooling. Not a word about volcanic eruptions across the world that led to hunger in America.

For most members of the profession and, almost by definition, for most Americans, history unfolds against a stable environmental backdrop. Nature is taken for granted and passed over in the rush to discuss what really mattered—wars, elections, and the other mainstays of political and intellectual history. Social history, pioneered during the 1960s and centered on exploring the lives of ordinary people, has proved no more receptive to the idea of nature as a dynamic force. Practicing history “from the bottom up,” as some of the new social historians put it, meant digging down into the nitty-gritty of everyday existence, into work, family life, sexual orientation, gender relations, and race. But by and large, the social historians put away their shovels when they reached the land and soil itself.

And yet a shift as important as the industrial revolution, for example, did not take place in a setting from which nature was somehow magically excluded. Industrialization never would have unfolded in the way that it did were New England not blessed with the ample precipitation and water resources required to power the cotton mills—water that had to be controlled with dams, which in turn put an end to spring fish runs and ultimately brought factory owners into conflict with distant rural farmers for whom salmon and shad represented their next meal. Even a political and military event like the Civil War was shaped by ecological factors. Soldiers and horses needed to be fed, and for that to happen both

-ix-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Down to Earth *
  • Prologue - Rocks and History 2
  • Part One - Chaos to Simplicity 9
  • 1 - Wilderness under Fire 11
  • 2 - A Truly New World 21
  • 3 - Reflections from a Woodlot 39
  • Part Two - Rationalization and Its DisContents 53
  • 4 - A World of Commodities 55
  • 5 - King Climate in Dixie 71
  • 6 - The Great Food Fight 89
  • 7 - Extracting the New South 99
  • 8 - The Unforgiving West 116
  • 9 - Conservation Reconsidered 138
  • 10 - Death of the Organic City 157
  • Part Three - Consuming Nature 173
  • 11 - Moveable Feast 175
  • 12 - The Secret History of Meat 190
  • 13 - America in Black and Green 206
  • 14 - Throwaway Society 226
  • 15 - Shades of Green 239
  • 16 - Planet U.S.A 262
  • Conclusion - Disney Takes on the Animal Kingdom 282
  • Notes 287
  • Bibliography 311
  • Index 333
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 346

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.