The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States
by Mark Fiege ’85 MA :: University of Washington Press :: Reviewed by Tim Steury
Contemplate the founding of the United States, a budding democracy carved out of a vast and unknown (to everyone other than its original inhabitants) wilderness. At some point, one might find oneself unable to extricate American history from Nature and its effects and implications. But we haven’t really, not until Fiege’s remarkable analysis.
Although he is keenly aware of Thomas Jefferson’s warning that “The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees ... only the traits which favor that theory,” Mark Fiege’s examination of American history through the lens of nature and environmental history produced many jolts of understanding. From the early colonists struggling both to survive and to understand the nature around them to his question of why Teddy Roosevelt is always cited as a conservationist while W.E.B. Du Bois is not, Fiege’s analysis is an insightful and exhilarating intellectual journey back through the history we all think we know.