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Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

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Overview

"Magnificent... the best work of economic and business history I've ever read."—Paul Krugman
In this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America's most dynamic city and the Great West its hinterland, Mr. Cronon opens a new window onto our national past. This is the story of city and country becoming ever more tightly bound in a system so powerful that it reshaped ...

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Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

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Overview

"Magnificent... the best work of economic and business history I've ever read."—Paul Krugman
In this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America's most dynamic city and the Great West its hinterland, Mr. Cronon opens a new window onto our national past. This is the story of city and country becoming ever more tightly bound in a system so powerful that it reshaped the American landscape and transformed American culture. The world that emerged is our own.

In this groundbreaking work, a Yale University professor of history gives an environmental perspective on the history of 19th-century America. "No one has written about Chicago with more power, clarity, and intelligence than Cronon. Indeed, no one has ever written a better book about a city."--Boston Globe. Photographs and maps.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
No one has ever written a better book about a city. . . . No one has written about Chicago with more power, clarity and intelligence than Cronon.— Kenneth T. Jackson
Chicago Tribune
This book is the story of Chicago's progress in the 19th century, the rough seduction of the hinterland, and how at its zenith the city ruled the commercial life of a vast inland region more completely and ruthlessly and profitably than any czar ruled Russia. . . . A marvelous book.— Ward Just
Wall Street Journal
An intoxicating piece of scholarship and enterprise. . . . It is really a work of biography: a look at the life of Chicago.— David Shribman
New York Times Book Review
Thoroughly original. . . . Likely to become a small classic. . . . Illuminating. . . . Brilliant.— Donald L. Miller
Kenneth T. Jackson - Boston Globe
“No one has ever written a better book about a city. . . . No one has written about Chicago with more power, clarity and intelligence than Cronon.”
Ward Just - Chicago Tribune
“This book is the story of Chicago's progress in the 19th century, the rough seduction of the hinterland, and how at its zenith the city ruled the commercial life of a vast inland region more completely and ruthlessly and profitably than any czar ruled Russia. . . . A marvelous book.”
David Shribman - Wall Street Journal
“An intoxicating piece of scholarship and enterprise. . . . It is really a work of biography: a look at the life of Chicago.”
Donald L. Miller - New York Times Book Review
“Thoroughly original. . . . Illuminating. . . . Brilliant.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a fresh approach that links urban and frontier history, Cronon ( Changes in the Land ) explores the relationship between Chicago, 1848-1893, and the entire West, tracing the path between an urban market and the natural systems that supply it. Examining commodity flows--meat, grain, lumber--and the revolution in transportation and distribution, the book chronicles changes in the landscape: cattle replace buffalo; corn and wheat supplant prairie grasses; entire forests fall to the ax. Thus Wyoming cattle, Iowa corn and Wisconsin white pine come together in Chicago. City and countryside develop in tandem. Cronon notes that gateway cities are a peculiar feature of North American frontier settlements and the chief colonizers of the Western landscape. He compares the world of rural merchants in the pre- and post-railroad eras, and cites the McCormack reaper works to illustrate the sale of manufactured goods to the hinterland. The culmination of this dynamic period is in the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Readers interested in the growth of capitalism will find this an engrossing study. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Cronon (history, Yale) investigates the relationship between Chicago and the rural areas that comprised its hinterlands during the 19th century in terms of commodity flows--grain, lumber, and meat. Although the focus is on Chicago, the economic transformations he describes took place in many areas. His analysis is at its clearest in relating how the building of railroads led to a revolution in the grain trade and to the Chicago Board of Trade's dominance of grain prices. Soundly grounded in original sources, especially the federal court bankruptcy records used to map capital flows, this well-written study is a significant addition to the literature on U.S. economic history and should be acquired by all academic libraries.-- Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393308730
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1992
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 111,562
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

William Cronon is Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 12, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    The Rich Economic History of the Great West In "Nature's M

    The Rich Economic History of the Great West

    In "Nature's Metropolis", William Cronon explores the economic history of one of America's unique regions and the environmental perspective of the US as it existed in the 1800s. Through his research on Chicago, the fascinating relationship between frontier and urban history lies. Cronon elegantly describes the development of the meat-packing industry as well as the rise of department stores like Sears.

    This is not a book that is easily categorized, but I find it comparable to Andrew Lees "Cities Perceived", for they both offer insight on the history and development of what falls between the frontier and city: suburbia! I think it would be a great text to bring into the classroom, as it offers much more than you typical history book and provides an adequate introduction to America's former economy with an emphasis on the social forces involved.

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