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McWilliams's (A Revolution in Eating) knowledge of American history and food production (he's a fellow in agrarian studies at Yale) provides a firm foundation to this colorful chronicle of pest management in the United States. The author traces a history in which timber harvesting, monoculture and various forms of development contributed to the spread of insects that feed on crops. McWilliams marks the beginning of "the professional fight against insects" with the 1841 publication of a book for farmers by Thaddeus William Harris, a self-taught entomologist. Agricultural journals advised farmers on how to protect tobacco crops from hornworms and wheat from weevils. Trains and barges hastened the spread of the Colorado potato beetle and chinch bugs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture added a Division of Entomology, but early biological and cultural methods soon faded as companies found profit in selling pesticides; DDT, first a miracle for eradicating malaria-carrying mosquitoes, became the bane of environmentalists thanks to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. McWilliams's treatment is as well written as it is thorough and should appeal to readers interested in history as well as environmental issues. Illus., maps. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.