The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

paper about the significance of the frontier, delivered in Chicago in 1893, he
posited an isolated frontier condition as the determining variable in shaping
American society. Von Thunen, according to Cronon, came closer to the mark
earlier in the nineteenth century with his argument that market accessibility
drove both urban and rural development. Much of Nature's Metropolis is devoted
to explicating the historical dynamics that transformed the frontier and the city
of Chicago into mutually dependent markets.
In a series of outstanding chapters that detail the history of transportation, the
development of commodity markets, and the transformative powers of Chicago's
pulsating economy, Cronon makes it virtually impossible to imagine any urban
or environmental history that fails to take into account the symbiotic relation-
ship of city and country. Cronon's attention to the role of technological innova-
tion, especially his marvelous account of the relationship between the steam
grain elevator and the development of futures trading in Chicago, suggests enor-
mous possibilities for broadening the horizons of historians of technology to in-
clude the transformative effects of technological innovation on ways the land is
used. This is a book, in short, that deserves a wide readership in the city and be-
For all of its strengths, however, this impressive book is not without limita-
tions. The market no doubt was an engine of change, but it would be helpful to
learn more about the engineers of change and the consequences of their deci-
sions on how people actually lived their lives in Chicago and along the railroad
lines that connected country and city. Nature's Metropolis may be one of the few
books ever written about Chicago that does not have "politics" as an index entry.
It would have been fascinating to explore the extent to which concerns about
market accessibility shaped the political relations between Chicago and the hin-
terland, and the degree to which market forces shaped the political debates
within the city itself. Providing some historical perspective on these issues within
the terms of Cronon's own argument would have enriched an already splendid
piece of historical scholarship and brought into sharper relief the author's con-
clusion: "We fool ourselves if we think we can choose between [city and coun-
try], for the green lake and the orange cloud are creatures of the same
landscape. Each is our responsibility. We can only take them together and, in
making the journey between them, find a way of life that does justice to them
both" (p. 385).
Montana State University ROBERT W. RYDELL
At Odds with Progress: Americans and Conservation. By Bret Wallach. (Tucson: Uni-
versity of Arizona Press, 1991. Pp. xiv+255. Introduction, maps, sources, in-
dex. $24.95-)
In this folksy work, the author develops an interesting and novel idea. Essen-
tially he claims that much of the conservation/environmental movement in the
United States has been a disguise to oppose industrial "progress" and promote
the moral view of land use planning. He claims that the emergence of the envi-


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 28, 2016.

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