Review of “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West,” by William Cronon

I’ve tried to write this review a number of times, and unfortunately have never been able to do this book justice. It is a history of Chicago. It is a deconstruction of the “Frontier Thesis” in terms of net cost of transportation. It is an economic-determinist history of the United States in the 19th Century.

If this map fascinates you, Nature’s Metropolis is the book for you:

The entire sweep of Nature’s Metropolis is included in this cartograph. The establishment of the city in onion fields, and the final purchasing of the land from Indian tribes. The successful conquest of Chicagto’s conquest of the (older) State of Illinois, and Chicago’s establishment of her “near abroad” (Illionois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa). The epic struggle against St. Louis, the firewalling against New York, and the unification of the Great West as Chicago’s periphery. And finally a historical moment that could not last.

Nature’s Metropolis is a brilliant book. Buy it today.

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3 thoughts on “Review of “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West,” by William Cronon
  1. Hi,
    I’m sorry for the off top but I have a question about one Malthusian quote I found here. It goes “The irony of Malthus’ argument is that it was almost universally correct from the beginning of time until about the year that published”.
    Can you help me? Who is the author? Is it an original quote or an adaptation of some other quote? I’ve come across different variations of it and I can’t trace it back.
    Please help.

  2. Thanks a lot for the link.
    It’s getting more and more curious. I’ve first heard it from Kate Lynch from Carnegie Mellon and then from some Russian professors. A couple of weeks ago the head of my department used this figure of speech to describe Süßmilch’s work and it all can’t be a coincidence. There should be a common origin to that figure of speech.

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