Conditions of Use
This textbook on US Environmental History is clearly a reflection of the author’s teaching the subject for many years. In content and style, the reader’s experience is one of moving through a lecture-based course, enhanced by visuals and short... read more
This textbook on US Environmental History is clearly a reflection of the author’s teaching the subject for many years. In content and style, the reader’s experience is one of moving through a lecture-based course, enhanced by visuals and short videos. The recorded lectures included with each chapter and syllabus at the end reinforce this sense. Overall, the book addresses several topics in US Environmental History, while omitting others that might be expected to be included in a standard environmental history textbook.
The content seems to be accurate, drawn from credible sources.
Some of the chapters would benefit from considering more current historical scholarship, especially that which revisits standard works at the foundation of environmental history. Crosby’s pioneering work on “Virgin Soil Epidemics,” for instance, has been revisited and complicated in recent years.
The writing is often conversational, as if the author was giving a lecture to the reader. That will appeal to some instructors and students, while other instructors might prefer that the textbook model academic writing for students.
The textbook is a bit idiosyncratic, in that some chapters build on each other to create a standard historical narrative, while others are topical. There isn’t clear rationale as to why some periods are narrated and others neglected, or why some topics were chosen except that they do address environmental themes.
It would be simple to assign separate chapters or parts of chapters for a course.
It is not always clear why certain topics were chosen, outside of a loose association with environmental history (see Consistency, above).
The online textbook is easy to use and provides a combination of text and visuals that is visually inviting and free of technical problems.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
There term “Indian” is used extensively without a modifier. In keeping with current usage, it should be replaced with American Indian (or Native, Native American, or Indigenous).
This textbook is a bit idiosyncratic. Some chapters read very much like standard US history that incorporate insights from environmental history, yet in these chapters the environment and human-environmental relationships are often secondary to social, political, and economic factors. Other chapters cover topics that are implicitly environmental history, such as a history of fertilizer, but do not derive their analytical framework from the field. Still other chapters lack environmental content. Some instructors will prefer a textbook that more explicitly foregrounds environmental history and keeps this analytical focus throughout the chapters, to clearly distinguish environmental history from a narrative that sees change over time through the lens of social, cultural, political, and economic factors.
This text uses an environmental lens to bring readers on a wonderful journey from prehistory through modern times. I was surprised at the amount of content that was packed into this 15-chapter text. Despite the large amount of information, the... read more
This text uses an environmental lens to bring readers on a wonderful journey from prehistory through modern times. I was surprised at the amount of content that was packed into this 15-chapter text. Despite the large amount of information, the chapters do not seem overwhelming. The author does a nice job of choosing an environmentally relevant focus for each chapter, and using that topic to propel you forward through time. There were sections where I wish more detail was included (for example, Chapter 11 on farming goes into a lot of detail on how the politics behind farming changed over time, but only briefly discusses the impact of the modernization of farming on the environment itself), but there is no way to go into details on every topic in an introductory text.
The information is accurate. The author does a nice job of including the most relevant perspectives on a topic while addressing the important milestones that have led us to where we are today.
In actuality, a lot has happened already since this 2019 was published, but I believe that this text can be easily updated. The last several chapters leave room for current history to be added in, and additional chapters could be added on as necessary. I think that the addition of the impact of Covid (and the resulting upheaval of our global community) through an environmental lens will be an imperative update at some point.
The text is clear, engaging, and easy to read. There is not a lot of jargon and I think the reading level could be appropriate for early high school through early college classes.
The text is consistent. The framework is established in the beginning chapter and is used throughout. Terminology is constant throughout.
These chapters are a great length and I think could be assigned out of order or as stand-alone readings. I do think including more navigation links within each chapter would be helpful as some of the chapters as fairly long and don't have separate headings. I would appreciate the ability to assign specific sections of a chapter to my students.
The author has done a nice job of presenting information in way that brings you forward through history while still maintaining a specific focus for each chapter. The organization style leaves room for additional current updates as well.
I read the online version of the book and had no trouble with the interface. It was easy to use! I did wish that the chapters were broken up into subheadings so that it would be easier to move back through the text or to assign students a particular section to read. Display features were all functional in the online version.
Grammar was good overall. Several areas where there were small errors, but nothing that prevents that ideas or tone of the book from prevailing.
This text does a nice job of including the perspectives of various cultures throughout and it is apparent that the author has made this inclusion a priority. This is especially true in the earlier chapters (Chapter 2, 3 and 4) when the author discusses the impact of colonialism on Native Americans and their way of life. I think that this inclusion of various voices could be enhanced in the later, more modern chapters. It is not an easy task, as so much of America's history was influenced by white men, so of course to learn about history, we have to learn about those voices. However, including other voices for the modern chapters could help to round out this text. Including the impacts of non-whites like Cesar Chavez and his impact on farm workers and Dr. Robert Bullard and his work for environmental justice. This text gives a nod to Jane Addams, but leaves out Rachel Carson and could benefit from the mention of some modern environmental activists like Winona LaDuke and others. Overall, culturally sensitive and relevant, which is a refreshing change from most historical texts.
I appreciate the video clips available to dive further into some of the topics discussed in the text. The further reading section for each chapter is also great. This is an exciting text that does a good job surveying American history through an environmental lens. I am looking forward to using some of these chapters with a future class.
This book offers a long view of prehistory, early, and modern environmental history. Covering recontact--which emphasizes that North America had 12,000 years of human interaction with its environment before European settlement, colonial North... read more
This book offers a long view of prehistory, early, and modern environmental history. Covering recontact--which emphasizes that North America had 12,000 years of human interaction with its environment before European settlement, colonial North America, through the major nineteenth and twentieth century periods and up to contemporary questions about land rights, corporate law, and economic considerations that complicate and highlight the competing interests that direct how humans interact with and treat the North American environment---American Environmental History offers an impressively comprehensive view with specific historical details arranged in a broader and coherent narrative,
This offers thorough, detailed accounts of the social, economic and material aspects of such things as mining, land rights, westward expansion. Commendable is the discussion of mill towns and the ways in which the loss of the commons remains one of the greatest tragedies in American environmental history.
This textbook would be excellent for advanced middle school and certainly for high school students. The textbook's method of presenting a single narrative rather than introducing historiographic variety--the citation of historians and the weaving together of their accounts---situates it as appropriate for secondary school but perhaps less appropriate as a stand alone text for college level students who ought to be exposed to history as a series of competing and complementary narratives based on interpretable source materials
This is clear, jargon-free prose, written in an engaging and lucid style.
Terminology is introduced and then reinforced through explanation and reference. Jargon-free!
Chapters are stand alone, discrete treatments of topics
Clear and purposeful discussions.
Use of images offers ways of drawing deeper connections between topics from one chapter to another
No flaws, well-proofed..
Sensitive to race and class; offers multiple perspectives
I am impressed by how much of the history of the Americas is covered. I am used to all too many U.S. History titles giving short shrift to the role First Peoples played, but in this effort they get their due. I am also glad to see an integration,... read more
I am impressed by how much of the history of the Americas is covered. I am used to all too many U.S. History titles giving short shrift to the role First Peoples played, but in this effort they get their due. I am also glad to see an integration, within an overall environmental framework, of political, social, cultural, and economic history. It would have been nice to have an index; the "search in book" feature is a poor substitute in this regard. There also is no glossary, though with an online text I suppose students can stop and look things up in a different window.
The author has done his due diligence incorporating the latest scholarship, as well as giving credit to the classics in the field, such as Cronon's Nature's Metropolis about the growth and development of Chicago's central role in shaping the Midwest in the 19th century.
As an Open Educational Resource, this book provides the structure to be continually updated with new scholarship in a variety of related fields. Teaching in Chicago, I find this text particularly valuable and relevant.
It is hard for me to say at this point how a class will find this book in terms of clarity, but to me it is easy to comprehend and follow. I do not find it burdened by jargon or other discipline-specific terminology.
I see this book as consistent, and one that flows logically from one topic to another.
I do not foresee any trouble with assigning sections out-of-sequence in order to fit my structure for an Environmental Justice class, for instance. The sections are useful in providing a region-specific context (America) which I can then use to compare and contrast with similar issues/themes in other parts of the world.
I do not see any problems with understanding how one chapter and its concepts flow into the next. Also, I believe the text allows me, as mentioned earlier, to truncate coverage of some topics to fit the requirements of a one-credit-hour course.
Sometimes there is a message "this video does not exist," but otherwise the graphics display well and the links to YouTube help the narrative from becoming too text-driven. This is true of the online version. The PDF version, as mentioned by another reviewer, leaves much to be desired, with none of the interactivity available to the online version.
I did not see any grammatical errors.
I would like to have seen more on the Cotton economy in the South, both Antebellum and after the Civil War.
I will assign this book to my next Environmental Justice class in Summer 2020. I see it as a useful resource to provide context for my projected lectures and discussions. Before this text, I have not seen another text to my liking. I will see what students think of it, hopefully making it a no-cost option for a student body that all too often struggles to afford textbooks.
This much-needed environmental history textbook connects pivotal themes in North American history to the human relationship with nature, beginning with pre-history and continuing into the twenty-first century. It centers North American history... read more
This much-needed environmental history textbook connects pivotal themes in North American history to the human relationship with nature, beginning with pre-history and continuing into the twenty-first century. It centers North American history within the larger Americas offering undergraduates a wider view of U.S. history. Fundamentally, it is a U.S. history textbook with a focus on economic concerns, topics that lend themselves well to environmental linkages. As is always the case with projects like this, not all possible connections between the environment and U.S. history are included (e.g., wars, health, politics). The chapters are uneven in length, as some topics are covered with more breadth than others. Neither an index nor glossary are included, which would have been appreciated. An example syllabus using the textbook is included as an appendix.
The content of this survey textbook is accurate. Environmental history is typically liberal leaning, and to some extent, this position comes through in the text. For example, the chapter on “Limits to Growth?” discusses the economic and political explanations for the U.S. failure to cease using fossil fuels for its energy needs. At the same time, the chapter presents both sides of the climate change argument and gives even-handed treatment of theories on population growth.
The content extends into the twenty-first century, and I expect the issues concerning climate change, agribusiness, and food choices will remain relevant for the foreseeable future. In any event, these chapters easily could be updated. The lists of suggested further readings at the end of each chapter also could be updated when new scholarship becomes available.
The text is clearly written with an affable tone that undergraduates will appreciate. It explains and develops ideas presented. Each chapter includes graphs, imbedded videos, and images to further develop and clarify the text.
The terminology and framing deployed is consistently used throughout.
The textbook is modular and permits assigning one chapter or section of a chapter without losing its integrity. Although it frequently reminds the reader of previously discussed material, the text reiterates the referenced point. I believe that I could assign the textbook’s later chapters when teaching post-Civil War history without creating confusion for students.
The textbook is simultaneously organized chronologically and thematically into fifteen chapters. Each chapter is divided into topical sections with headers and is introduced with a brief statement of what it’s about.
The online version looks and functions very well. Each chapter includes imbedded videos, map animations, audio lectures, and chapter readings that enhance the reader’s experience. The PDF interface, however, is not as user-friendly. The PDF version lacks a cover page, does not include links to chapters, includes too many blank spaces, cuts off images, and lacks access to imbedded videos. I would recommend students use the online text.
The text is well written and generally error free. However, I noticed several “typographical” errors (e.g., “the” instead of “they,” missing words, repeated words, sentences starting with numbers not spelled out) in the text that were distracting for me, the first occurring in the second sentence of the introduction.
The text is selectively culturally sensitive and inclusive. For example, it includes American Indian successes and contributions and European immigrants’ economic importance. Two noticeable underrepresented stories, however, are African Americans’ and women’s contributions to U.S. history. The chapter on “Colonial North America” discusses the economic reasons for slave labor. This, along with a short paragraph about segregation, Jim Crow laws, migration, and suburban housing restrictions in “City Life,” is the extent of African American appearances. The chapter on “Commons, Mills, Corporations” discusses women who worked in the mills, and the chapter on “City Life” discusses Jane Addams’s work with settlement houses. Apart from these two specific inclusions, women’s history remains on the periphery. Even Rachel Carson does not make the pages of this environmental history textbook.
This is a welcome textbook that offers an accessible, readable entrée to North American environmental history for undergraduate students. It can serve as a stand-alone textbook. Although if chapters or sections are supplemented with readings from other sources with a more diverse perspective and/or coverage of additional topics (e.g., war, public health, environmental politics, etc.), it can serve as a solid base for delving into U.S. citizens’ relationship with their environment.
American Environmental History is an interesting amalgam of physical and cultural anthropology, technological history, political history, and economics. It works very well as a history of North America through a lens of environmental concerns. read more
American Environmental History is an interesting amalgam of physical and cultural anthropology, technological history, political history, and economics. It works very well as a history of North America through a lens of environmental concerns.
The diverse areas covered are clearly based upon the most recent understandings of phenomena affecting environmental concerns. I only wish that each area was developed more fully and deeply. This would work very, very well as a text for a walk in class. I think students with some environmental science under their belts would be wishing for more detailed development.
Because of this texts broad reaching approach, it could be used to support a variety of different approaches to environmental sciences. It should remain useful for some time into the future, and will be easily amended as new insights and information are found.
The author's style is wonderfully narrative. Each chapter unfolds like a story which will be very easily accessible to readers.
Parallel construction is used in each of the chapters. Each area is developed to a similar degree and extent. I think readers will find comfort in the familiar framework used throughout.
Each chapter stands on its own as a mini-text. I could see myself using various chapters from this book in a variety of different classes, simply assigning a relevant chapter as a freestanding reading.
History was kind to the author, different forces shaped environmental concerns at different times. The author did a very nice job of detailing what factors were important when, and how each impacts environmental concerns today.
The text was very easy to navigate. Links were responsive and easy to use.
The writing was not only correct, but compelling and engaging. Very nicely written!
There is a tendency in many texts to treat Environmental Science through white western eyes. From the very beginning, the authors clearly made every effort to be inclusive and include different cultural narratives. The clear cultural inclusiveness, particularly in the early chapters, is one of the books strengths.
I could see building a highly effective course around this text. I could also see using portions of this text as supporting material in several of our existing Environmental Science courses. American Environmental History brings several important themes (history, geography, economics, technology, etc.) together under one roof for a very versatile text and interesting synthesis.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Prehistory
- Chapter 2: Recontact
- Chapter 3: Colonial North America
- Chapter 4: Frontier and Grid
- Chapter 5: Commons, Mills, Corporations
- Chapter 6: Transportation Revolution
- Chapter 7: Commodities, Centers, Peripheries
- Chapter 8: Green Revolution
- Chapter 9: City Life
- Chapter 10: Wilderness and Country Life
- Chapter 11: Farmers and Agribusiness
- Chapter 12: Treasures Underground
- Chapter 13: Limits to Growth?
- Chapter 14: Economics and Externalities
- Chapter 15: Food and Choice
About the Book
For too long the environment has been considered little more than a neutral background to history. This text surveys findings of the new field of Environmental History about how the environment of the Americas influenced the actions of people here and how people affected their environments, from prehistory to the present.
About the Contributors