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In this ambitious and provocative text, environmental historian Ted Steinberg offers a sweeping history of our nation--a history that, for the first time, places the environment at the very center of our story. Written with exceptional clarity, Down to Earth re-envisions the story of America "from the ground up." It reveals how focusing on plants, animals, climate, and other ecological factors can radically change the way that we think about the past. Examining such familiar topics as colonization, the industrial revolution, slavery, the Civil War, and the emergence of modern-day consumer culture, Steinberg recounts how the natural world influenced the course of human history. From the colonists' attempts to impose order on the land to modern efforts to sell the wilderness as a consumer good, the author reminds readers that many critical episodes in our history were, in fact, environmental events. He highlights the ways in which we have attempted to reshape and control nature, from Thomas Jefferson's surveying plan, which divided the national landscape into a grid, to the transformation of animals, crops, and even water into commodities. The text is ideal for courses in environmental history, environmental studies, urban studies, economic history, and American history. Passionately argued and thought-provoking, Down to Earth retells our nation's history with nature in the foreground--a perspective that will challenge our view of everything from Jamestown to Disney World.
An innovative and provocative new approach to understanding American history turns readers attention to nature as the primary force shaping the course of the United States.
Down to earth offers a sweeping history of our nation, one that places the environment at the very center of our story. Ted Steinberg sweeps across the centuries, re-envisioning the story of America as he recounts how the environment has played a key role in virtually every social, economic, and political development. Ranging from the colonists' attempts to impose order on the land to the modern efforts to sell the wilderness as a consumer good, packaged in national parks and Alaskan cruises, Steinberg reminds readers that many critical episodes in our history were, in fact, environmental events: the California Gold Rush, for example, or the great migration of African Americans to the North in the early twentieth century (in part the consequence of an insect infestation). Equally important, Steinberg highlights the ways in which we have envisioned nature, attempting to reshape and control it--from Thomas Jefferson's surveying plan that divided the national landscape into a grid, to the transformation of animals, crops, and even water into commodities (New Englanders started trading water rights by the early nineteenth century). From the Pilgrims to Disney World, Steinberg's narrative abounds with fascinating details and often disturbing insights into our interaction with the natural world.
In this ambitious and provocative text, environmental historian Ted Steinberg offers a sweeping history of the United States--a history that places the environment at the very center of the narrative. Now in a new edition, Down to Earth reenvisions the story of America "from the ground up." It reveals how focusing on plants, animals, climate, and other ecological factors can radically change the way that we think about the past. Examining such familiar topics as colonization, the industrial revolution, slavery, the Civil War, and the emergence of consumer culture, Steinberg recounts how the natural world influenced the course of human history. From the colonists' attempts to impose order on the land to modern efforts to sell the wilderness as a consumer good, he reminds readers that many critical episodes in U.S. history were, in fact, environmental events. The text highlights the ways in which Americans have attempted to reshape and control nature, from Thomas Jefferson's surveying plan, which divided the national landscape into a grid, to the transformation of animals, crops, and even water into commodities.
"This new collection is a thoughtful menagerie. The essays collected here offer a fresh way of looking at animals in their context, and give us a whole new way of doing natural history. The boundaries between humans and animals are provocatively redrawn."---Stephen T. Asma, Columbia College, author of Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums Although the animal may be, as Nietzsche argued, ahistorical, living completely in the present, it nonetheless plays a crucial role in human history. The fascination with animals that leads not only to a desire to observe and even live alongside them, but to capture or kill them, is found in all civilizations. The essays collected in Beastly Natures show how animals have been brought into human culture, literally helping to build our societies (as domesticated animals have done) or contributing, often in problematic ways, to our concept of the wild. The book begins with a group of essays that approach the historical relevance of human-animal relations seen from the perspectives of various disciplines and suggest ways in which animals might be brought into formal studies of history. Differences in species and location can greatly affect the shape of human-animal interaction, and so the essays that follow address a wide spectrum of topics, including the demanding fate of the working horse, the complex image of the American alligator (at turns a dangerous predator and a tourist attraction), the zoo gardens of Victorian England, the iconography of the rhinoceros and the preference it reveals in society for myth over science, relations between humans and wolves in Europe, and what we can learn from society's enthusiasm for "political" animals, such as the pets of the American presidents and the Soviet Union's "space dogs." Taken together, these essays suggest new ways of looking not only at animals but at human history.
This book highlights the unique and complex role women have played in the shaping of the American environment from pre-Columbian Native Americans to present day environmental justice activists.
The field of environmental history emerged just decades ago but has established itself as one of the most innovative and important new approaches to history, one that bridges the human and natural world, the humanities and the sciences. With the current trend towards internationalizing history, environmental history is perhaps the quintessential approach to studying subjects outside the nation-state model, with pollution, global warming, and other issues affecting the earth not stopping at national borders. With 25 essays, this Handbook is global in scope and innovative in organization, looking at the field thematically through such categories as climate, disease, oceans, the body, energy, consumerism, and international relations.

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