Cover image for The Columbia guide to American environmental history
Title:
The Columbia guide to American environmental history
Author:
Merchant, Carolyn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xviii, 448 pages ; 24 cm.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1430 Lexile.
ISBN:
9780231112321
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

How and why have Americans living at particular times and places used and transformed their environment? How have political systems dealt with conflicts over resources and conservation? This is the only major reference work to explore all the major themes and debates of the burgeoning field of environmental history. Humanity´s relationship with the natural world is one of the oldest and newest topics in human history. The issue emerged as a distinct field of scholarship in the early 1970s and has been growing steadily ever since. The discipline´s territory and sources are rich and varied and include climactic and geological data, court records, archaeological digs, and the writings of naturalists, as well as federal and state economic and resource development and conservation policy. Environmental historians investigate how and why natural and human-created surroundings affect a society´s development. Merchant provides a context-setting overview of American environmental history from the beginning of the millennium; an encyclopedia of important concepts, people, agencies, and laws; a chronology of major events; and an extensive bibliography including films, videos, CD-Roms, and websites. This concise "first stop" reference for students and general readers contains an accessible overview of environmental history; a mini-encyclopedia of ideas, people, legislation, and agencies; a chronology of events and their significance; and a bibliography of books, magazines, and journals as well as films, videos, CD-ROMs, and online resources. In addition to providing a wealth of factual information, The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History explores contentious issues in this much-debated field, from the idea of wilderness to global warming.
How and why have Americans living at particular times and places used and transformed their environment? How have political systems dealt with conflicts over resources and conservation? This is the only major reference work to explore all the major themes and debates in the burgeoning field of environmental history. Humanity's relationship with the natural world is one of the oldest and newest topics in human history. The issue emerged as a distinct field of scholarship in the early 1970s and has been growing steadily ever since. The discipline's territory and sources are rich and varied and include climatic and geological data, court records, archaeological digs, and the writings of naturalists, as well as federal and state economic and resource development and conservation policy. Environmental historians investigate how and why natural and human-created surroundings affect a society's development. Merchant provides a context-setting overview of American environmental history from the precolonial land-use practice of Native Americans and concluding with twenty-first concerns over global warming. The book also includes a glossary of important concepts, people, agencies, and legislation; a chronology of major events; and an extensive bibliography including films, videos, CD-ROMs, and websites.

This concise reference for students and general readers contains an accessible overview of American environmental history; a mini-encyclopedia of ideas, people, legislation, and agencies; a chronology of events and their significance; and a bibliography of books, magazines, and journals as well as films, videos, CD-ROMs, and online resources.

In addition to providing a wealth of factual information, The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History explores contentious issues in this much-debated field, from the idea of wilderness to global warming.


Author Notes

Carolyn Merchant is the Chancellor's Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of several books including The Death of Nature , Ecological Revolutions , and Earthcare , and is a past-president of the American Society for Environmental History.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This latest addition to the Columbia Guides to American History and Cultures series has 10 chapters on historical topics and themes; a 60-page dictionary of environmental agencies, concepts, laws, and people important in American environmental history; an environmental history time line; and a lengthy "Resource Guide." The 10 overview essays are good introductions to general topics. For example, chapter 7, "Conservation and Preservation, 1785^-1950," discusses changing land policies and laws, social and scientific movements, and park creation--wide-ranging topics succinctly described and interrelated. "Urban Environments, 1850^-1960" (chapter 6) is a reminder that the human environment is often far removed from the natural environment, though its impact is considerable. The chapters have bibliographies of the main sources consulted, useful to those whose interest has been piqued. The table of contents lists both chapter titles and the subheadings for the topics mentioned in each. The "Resource Guide" offers lists of visual (films and videos) and electronic resources arranged by topic as well as a bibliographic essay and a bibliography of articles and books in 21 categories. The books in the bibliography could serve as a guide when developing a core collection on environmental history. This volume, like the others in the series, should prove to be a welcome addition to academic and large library collections.


Choice Review

Environmental historian Merchant in a brief introduction orients readers to basic concepts and explains the volume's structure. Ten chapters with notes provide an overview of US environmental history, some presenting views by scholars (e.g., William Cronon) with whom Merchant may disagree. Chapters treat changing land use, economic factors, government policy toward land and humans (especially Native Americans), urbanism, ecology in intellectual history, and environmental movements--good introductions or reviews, but researchers should check the bibliographic essays and specialized bibliographies near the end of the book. A glossary follows, featuring government agencies, terms, laws, and people mentioned in the text, but the text lacks cross-references or symbols to lead readers to this section. Mark Grossman's The ABC-CLIO Companion to the Environmental Movement (CH, May'95), Conservation and Environmentalism: An Encyclopedia, ed. by Robert Pachlke (1995), and John Mongillo and Linda Zierdt-Warshaw's Encyclopedia of Environmental Science (CH, Apr'01) provide more comprehensive coverage, and Anne Becher et al.'s American Environmental Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present (CH, May'01), more detailed biographies of major figures. Merchant supplies an annotated time line, but that in Great Events from History II. Ecology and The Environment Series, ed. by Frank Magill (5 v., CH, Apr'96) is more comprehensive. A guide to visual (video/film) and electronic (Internet sites) resources provides excellent coverage and describes access for videos, but six entries recommend a specific interlibrary loan office, complete with e-mail address, which users should ignore, because ILL requests are made through one's home library. Further, several citations are incomplete, unlike many others in the section. Merchant warns of the "ephemeral" nature of Web sites; several she lists are no longer active. Essential for college, university, and large public libraries, and special libraries supporting US history, ecology, geography, or environmentalism. K. Cleland-Sipfle formerly, Southern Oregon University


Table of Contents

Part I Historical Overview: Topics and Themes
1 The American Environment and Native-European Encounters, 1000-1875
2 The New England Wilderness Transformed, 1600-1850
3 The Tobacco and Cotton south, 1600-1900
4 Nature and the Market Economy, 1750-1850
5 Western Frontiers: The Settlement of California and the Great Plains, 1820-1930
6 Urban Environments, 1850-1960
7 Conservation and Preservation, 1785-1950
8 Indian Land Policy, 1800-1990
9 The Rise of Ecology, 1890-1990
10 The Era of Environmentalism, 1940-2000
Part II American Environmental History A to Z: Agencies, Concepts, Laws, and People
Part III Chronology: An Environmental History Timeline
Part IV Resource Guide Visual Resources Electronic
Resources Bibliographical
Essay Bibliography