This book began one day in 1999 when Bruce Borland, a freelance acquisitions editor working for Oxford University Press, called to ask whether I would be willing to write an environmental history textbook. My first answer was no. The thought of writing a comprehensive book largely devoid of argument made me shudder. Borland, I should say, is not your average textbook representative. He is a man with vision on a mission to see that college students receive books that convey the real excitement of learning. Here was an opportunity to introduce students to my field of expertise, a chance to shape how they thought about history and its place in the world today. What could be more important? I was sold. I thank Bruce for the education he gave me.
Douglas Sackman read a very early draft of the manuscript, slogging through the often dull and ungrammatical prose, pointing me in new directions and sending me back to the library time and again. His comments on the manuscript reflect not simply his intellectual breadth, but his commitment to first-rate teaching.
Jim O'Brien is not just my best critic and a dear friend, but the only person on earth willing to read three drafts of my work. Long live the Imperial Diner and its “boiled hamburger steak.”
Michael Black and Bob Hannigan have, between them, two of the best pairs of eyes in the business. I can't thank them enough for their efforts. My thanks also to Tim Beal, Bruce Borland, David Morris, Helen Steinberg, and Joel Tarr for combing through the manuscript, in whole or in part, and showing me the path to clarity.
Peter Ginna at Oxford stepped in and placed a few chips on me. He is everything and more that an author could ask for in an editor. My thanks to Peter and his colleagues Peter Coveney and Gioia Stevens for believing and giving the book a shot with a larger trade audience. My gratitude too goes out to the terrific panel of anonymous and not so anonymous reviewers, including William Cronon and Adam Rome, who poured a great deal of time and energy into critiquing the manuscript. I know the book is better because of their trenchant criticism. It is also better because of the hard work put in by Oxford's Christine D'Antonio, Furaha Norton, and Robert Tempio.
My agent Michele Rubin, with her keen sense of fairness, taught me that there is in fact such a thing as a free lunch. My Case Western history colleagues, ever faithful and supportive, passed along information and commented on an early chapter draft. Jonathan Sadowsky offered his usual challenging read and many great laughs along the way. Peter Whiting and Norman Robbins contributed some