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Car Country: An Environmental History
     

Car Country: An Environmental History

by Christopher W. Wells, William Cronon (Foreword by)
 

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For most people in the United States, going almost anywhere begins with reaching for the car keys. This is true, Christopher Wells argues, because the United States is Car Country�a nation dominated by landscapes that are difficult, inconvenient, and often unsafe to navigate by those who are not sitting behind the wheel of a car.

The prevalence of

Overview

For most people in the United States, going almost anywhere begins with reaching for the car keys. This is true, Christopher Wells argues, because the United States is Car Country�a nation dominated by landscapes that are difficult, inconvenient, and often unsafe to navigate by those who are not sitting behind the wheel of a car.

The prevalence of car-dependent landscapes seems perfectly natural to us today, but it is, in fact, a relatively new historical development. In Car Country, Wells rejects the idea that the nation's automotive status quo can be explained as a simple byproduct of an ardent love affair with the automobile. Instead, he takes readers on a tour of the evolving American landscape, charting the ways that transportation policies and land-use practices have combined to reshape nearly every element of the built environment around the easy movement of automobiles. Wells untangles the complicated relationships between automobiles and the environment, allowing readers to see the everyday world in a completely new way. The result is a history that is essential for understanding American transportation and land-use issues today.

Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review - Michael R. Fein

In Car Country, Christopher W. Wells offers a compelling history of America’s signature car-dependent landscapes. The text is at once a deft synthesis of recent literature on motor vehicles, highways, urban planning, suburban development, and land use policy, and a persuasive reinterpretation of these histories through the lens of landscape ecology.

Enterprise & Society

Car Country is a valuable addition to our knowledge on urban development, the environmental impact of automobiles, and the evolution of the twentieth-century American landscape.

Human Ecology
For students and inhabitants of car country, Wells offers a terrific excavation of the sprawlscape that still drives our days.

Southern California Quarterly - Theodore Strathman
One of the great strengths of the book is Wells’s meticulous work in revealing how the institutional, economic, and mental arrangements supporting ‘Car Country’ were set in place during the interwar years.... Wells’s book is a remarkable achievement.

From the Publisher
"Wells has produced an important and persuasive new chapter in the history of American car culture." -David Blanke, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Autumn 2013

"[T]he book is a fresh, well-documented history of roadbuilding policies in the United States between 1900 and 1960." -James M. Rubenstein, Journal of American History, March 2014

"In Car Country, Christopher W. Wells offers a compelling history of America's signature car-dependent landscapes. With lively anecdotes, effective imagery, and dozens of illustrations, the book also presents an accessible narrative that will help students visualize how Americans gradually and profoundly transformed their nation." -Michael R. Fine, American Historical Review, February 2014

Journal of American History - James M. Rubenstein
A fresh, well-documented history of roadbuilding policies in the United States between 1900 and 1960.

The AAG Review of Books - John A. Jackle
Relatively few academic geographers have focused their research and publishing directly on the automobile and its geographical implications for life in the United States. Yet nothing over the past century has had a greater effect on America’s geography than the public’s evolving dependence on the motor car, and, as well, the motor truck.... Christopher Wells’s opus will excite more geographers to focus on automobility as a fundamental factor underlying the American experience.

American Historical Review - Michael R. Fine
In Car Country, Christopher W. Wells offers a compelling history of America’s signature car-dependent landscapes. With lively anecdotes, effective imagery, and dozens of illustrations, the book also presents an accessible narrative that will help students visualize how Americans gradually and profoundly transformed their nation.

H-Environment - Janet Ore
[I]maginative and accessible.... General US historians should pay attention to Car Country. It joins a growing body of environmental history that is revising the traditional narrative of US history.

The Michigan Historical Review - Tom McCarthy
[Car Country] is an excellent and needed addition to the still remarkably small literature that explores the combined histories of Americans, automobiles, and the environment.

Journal of Historical Geography - Ben Bradley
Wells argues that in order to understand how automobility has become so deeply ‘locked in’ to contemporary American society, historians and geographers would do better to focus on the built landscape... [Car Country] belongs in the library of anyone interested in transportation, infrastructure, mobility, and land-use in twentieth-century America.

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society - David Blanke
Wells has produced an important and persuasive new chapter in the history of American car culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780295994291
Publisher:
University of Washington Press
Publication date:
07/08/2014
Series:
Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
746,953
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are Saying About This

Owen D. Gutfreund
Car Country offers a valuable historical perspective that is directly related to many pressing contemporary issues.

William Cronon
Car Country is arguably the most carefully researched, clearly written, and consistently engaging study anyone has yet written exploring the far-flung and extraordinarily complicated landscapes created by and for automobiles in the twentieth-century United States. The story is all the more remarkable because most of us who now inhabit this landscape take it so much for granted without having the slightest clue how it came into being.

Meet the Author

Christopher W. Wells is associate professor of environmental history at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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