Some Kind of Paradise: A Chronicle of Man and the Land in Florida / Edition 1

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"The history of Florida is the story of North America in miniature. By telling it with such eloquence and learning in 'Some Kind of Paradise,' Mr. Derr has revealed the dark side of the historian Frederick Jackson Turner's famous hypothesis: our national character was indeed shaped by the frontier. . . . [Derr] writes with a journalist's eye for telling details and an antiquarian's fondness for digression and quirky facts. . . . The state's tortuous journey from one extreme to the other is [his] subject, and he tackles it with brilliance and bravado."--New York Times Book Review

For 500 years, visitors to Florida have discovered magic. In Some Kind of Paradise, an eloquent social and environmental history of the state, Mark Derr describes how this exotic land is fast becoming a victim of its own allure.
He begins by examining the period between Reconstruction and the Great Depression, when wealthy capitalists led by Henry Flagler and Henry Plant opened the peninsula to a flood of development by building railroads and luxury hotels.
Turning to the distant past, he describes the geologic origins of the state and early fossil finds. From archaeological data, he stitches together a portrait of the first human inhabitants and their distinct cultures, then follows the thread of time to the "discovery" of Florida in 1513 by Juan Ponce de León, the fall of the indigenous people to European diseases and weapons, and the pattern of conquest and racial violence that continued into the 19th century as white Americans waged a campaign against the Seminole Indians.
Derr keeps his gaze on the land and its people--wreckers and spongers in Key West, cowmen on the "palmetto prairie," speculators and builders from Miami Beach to Seaside, Cuban cigar makers who rolled tobacco while listening to readings from Shakespeare and Marx, and migrant fruit pickers, convict laborers, and the idle rich--the range of dreamers and schemers who have struggled to remake this abundant, fragile wonderland. Written with both tenderness and alarm, Derr's book presents their competing views of Florida: a paradise to be protected and nurtured or a frontier to be exploited and conquered.

Mark Derr moved to Florida with his family at age six; his interest in the state's history and ecology dates back to the late 1960s, when he watched the landscape around Winter Park change with the construction of Walt Disney World. He is the author of two other critically acclaimed books, The Frontiersman and Dog's Best Friend, and his articles have appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Natural History, Audubon, and other publications. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, Gina Maranto.

The first history of Florida to tell the whole sotry of its land and people from its geological past to present.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ambitious, comprehensive and generally successful, Derr's study of the country's most-visited state combines ecological, demographic, economic information with political and cultural history. In his account of the area's exploration, colonization and development, the author also portrays the developers, migrants and foreign laborers who shaped the state, primarily for the benefit of winter residents, retirees and tourists. Chief among the 19th-century entrepreneurs were friends and rivals Henry Plant and Henry Flagler, master builders of cities and resorts, whose vast rail systems opened up the peninsula and fostered exploitation of all kinds, including plantation slavery. The panoramic narrative is animated by anecdotes, novel details and flavorful images of Florida's motley settlers. Freelance writer Derr cautions that the outcome of the current war between developers and environmentalists will depend on ``controlled'' growth and wise administration of the state's resources. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Derr's attempt to write an environmental history of Florida falls short. While he describes the state's varied geography and how people have affected it, he concentrates heavily on the east and southwest coasts and the Everglades with scant mention of north Florida and the Panhandle. Derr consistently ignores north Florida in his discussion of areas ranging from land use--conservation parks, tobacco farms, and quail plantations--to race riots. Four chapters on the history of Florida, from discovery and exploration to Reconstruction, disrupt the rhythm of his narrative and provide no ecological tie-ins. In addition to relying on standard, often outdated, books and ignoring other seminal works, Derr's footnoting is inconsistent. Only for comprehensive collections of Florida history.-- Susan Hamburger, Virginia State Lib. & Archives, Richmond
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813016290
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Series: Florida Sand Dollar Books
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 442
  • Sales rank: 782,193
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Maps 8
Acknowledgments 9
Prologue 13
1 The End of the Line 17
2 The American Riviera 37
3 Alligators and Oranges 63
4 The Middle Kingdom 86
5 A Scarred and Barren Land 109
6 Life on the Wet Frontier 130
7 "Water Will Run Downhill" 151
8 Fool's Gold 175
9 Tropical Sandbar 198
10 Fatal Fantasies 225
11 A Natural Eye 250
12 The Seminole War 271
13 A Slave State 294
14 Rising from the Ruins 312
15 Florida Takes Off 336
16 In Defense of the Environment 353
17 Tomorrowland, Today 374
Notes 391
Bibliographical Note 399
Index 405
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