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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.
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.
"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.
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.
Is Italy il bel paese—the beautiful country—where tourists spend their vacations looking for art, history, and scenery? Or is it a land whose beauty has been cursed by humanity’s greed and nature’s cruelty? The answer is largely a matter of narrative and the narrator’s vision of Italy. The fifteen essays in Nature and History in Modern Italy investigate that nation’s long experience in managing domesticated rather than wild natures and offer insight into these conflicting visions. Italians shaped their land in the most literal sense, producing the landscape, sculpting its heritage, embedding memory in nature, and rendering the two different visions inseparable. The interplay of Italy’s rich human history and its dramatic natural diversity is a subject with broad appeal to a wide range of readers.

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