The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 329
the conversational overlaps between essays and uses them to build a sustained in-
tellectual discourse. While some scholars might find such editing historiographi-
cally problematic, it actually enhances the power of the original pieces and
creates a more coherent text for students and generalists interested in the envi-
ronment and the American West. And Flores does it all with literary style and
personal flair. This is engaging as well as challenging and rewarding reading.
The Natural West covers a chunk of time and territory, from geologic prehistory
to the present, from the Llano Estacado of Texas to the Mormon Great Basin to
the ranchettes of Montana's Bitterroot Valley. In these ten essays, Flores argues
(among other things) that the West is marked not only by aridity but also by
mountains, and that the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains are not so much
separate as biologically interdependent ecosystems. He dismisses the romantic
notion of the existence of a natural climax state, of true wilderness as more than
a cultural construct, and gives agency to Native Americans in their generations
of land and resource use. And while Flores supports the goals of restoration
ecology, he recognizes the impossibility of defining a perfect "natural state," only
the moving timeline of ecological entities in flux.
What ties these essays together theoretically is Flores's cogent argument for a
biocultural history--recognizing our evolutionary development and the power
of biology to inform historical inquiry. Flores maintains that we need to acknowl-
edge a deeper "biological and universal human nature" (p. 18) that makes all of
us part of a continuum of evolutionary biology, part of nature. Culture is impor-
tant in mediating our relationship with the natural world, as is our materialistic
existence and the impact of a global capitalist economy. But Flores contends that
we need to look deeper. Just as the Human Genome Project is discovering more
about the governing nature of our genetic biology, historians and ecologists
need to recognize larger biological patterns over longer time spans over whole
populations that demonstrate the fundamentals of human nature in nature.
Flores's argument is not a simple or mechanistic biological determinism. It is
about getting beyond the thinking that separates humans from nature. Flores
dedicates this book to Walter Prescott Webb as one of the founders of modern
environmental history-a historian whose work was dismissed as environmental
determinism. Just as Webb refocused the historical profession's attention on en-
vironment, Flores wants to reorient the dominant environmental paradigm from
culture to biology, to get us to explore what makes us natural. That is both as ad-
mirable and provocative task, one for which Dan Flores and The Natural West is
particularly well suited.
Utah State Unzverszty David Rich Lewis
Poneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865. By Peter
E. Palmquist and Thomas Kailbourn. (Stanford University Press, 2ool. Pp.
695. Preface, acknowledgments, appendices, bibliography. ISBN 0-8047-3883-
1. $125.00oo, cloth.)
Very soon after Daguerre's 1839 presentation of his new photographic pro-
Here’s what’s next.
Show all pages in this issue.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/381/ocr/: accessed January 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.