Natures Metropolis – Chicago & the Great West (Paper): Chicago and the Great West

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Natures Metropolis – Chicago & the Great West (Paper): Chicago and the Great West

Natures Metropolis – Chicago & the Great West (Paper): Chicago and the Great West

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William Cronon challenges many of the conventions of both urban and western history in this pathbreaking book, and does so with unusual intelligence and elegance. Cronon begins at the very beginning, when Chicago was merely a minor gathering place for American Indians and European traders, distinguished mostly by abundant wild garlic (the name “Chicago” is a corruption of a Miami Indian word for garlic—just the first of many things I learned about Chicago from this book, even though I lived there for 12 years). Unlike the typical maps that appear in historical monographs, these maps don’t just show geographical context; they explicitly advance Cronon’s larger argument about the flows of capital that knit the region together.

The physical worlds emerging from this assemblage—Chicago, most notably—were no less “nature,” but they were nevertheless a “second nature,” a human redirection, if not mastery of “first nature” (xix). Technologies of abstraction and production were not located exclusively in the metropolis but also in peripheral landscapes popularly characterized as “closer” to nature. Not that the boosters were all that good at predictions—they mostly adjusted their hucksterism to fit what was happening around them, just projecting it into the future and giving it a hyper-optimistic gloss. The book is clear because Bill knew what he wanted to say, he cared about communicating his insights to audiences well beyond academe, and—moving from intention to execution—he understood the alchemical processes whereby crisp, purposeful prose and flawlessly constructed arguments can catalyze pure gold. Anna-Lisa Cox, The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality (New York: PublicAffairs, 2018).Louis, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and Kansas City; the sections where he traces the rail and financial linkages between them are awesome), the settlers at the frontier never would have managed a living for want of markets; without the farmers producing goods for consumption and distribution, Chicago would have no reason for ever existing. Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (New York: Random House, 2010).

Excellent and fascinating review of the environmental history of the city of Chicago and its economic hinterland from the 1850s to the 1893 World’s Fair.Readers turning to this book for an account of Chicago’s architecture, its labor struggles, its political machines, its social reformers, its cultural institutions, and many other topics are likely to turn away disappointed” (xvii). He couches Chicago’s rise to prominence in terms of empire, quoting an 1880s Chicago newspaperman who wrote, “In ancient times [.

You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. The Manifest Destiny school of city-boosters asserts that Chicago must be great precisely because of this perfect distribution of resources and transit systems. Undetermined; published in The Chicago Defender on September 4, 1920, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. But Cronon also highlights how these relationships were dynamic and ever-changing and how Chicago’s rise as a gateway city for national and European markets muddles the city’s status as a central place.Trains, telegraphs, and telephones allowed payment to be transferred to a logger in the woods of Wisconsin from a bank in Chicago, once proof of work was sent to the bank. We publish thousands of books and journals each year, serving scholars, instructors, and professional communities worldwide. Clocks, double-entry bookkeeping, punch cards, all the parts of the modern wage system made labor-time into abstractions which, like Cronon’s commodities, became intangible, fluid, and manipulatable.

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