A Standard American History Textbook Essay

1269 Words Dec 8th, 2016 6 Pages
Reading a standard American history textbook from cover to cover, one would likely not run across many references to the natural world. Occasionally the author mentions the influence of mineral discoveries, or devastating natural disasters such as earthquakes and dust storms, but never how the environment molded the societies that developed within it. Ted Steinberg’s Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History is a noticeable departure from this methodology. His ambitious goal is simple, “to change the way you think about American history.” (Steinberg, ix) In order to accomplish this, Steinberg places the natural world alongside human characters as an active agent of change. To the author, nature has never existed in a vacuum, waiting patiently until human development determined its proper course. Instead, he argues that the plants, animals, weather, climate, and soil have had a significant impact on the history of North America. Steinberg’s narrative of the environmental history of North America drastically alters our perspective of human development, European colonization, and the post-World War II consumer culture. Although divided into three parts, Steinberg establishes the underlying theme of the book early on and never falters. He argues that the system of capitalism brought over with European colonization drastically altered how humans viewed, and interacted, with their surrounding environment.
In Part One, “From Chaos to Simplicity,” the author chronicles how…

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