Whitney, Gordon G.
From Coastal Wilderness to Fruited Plain: A History of Environmental Change in Temperate North America from 1500 to the Present
Cambridge University Press
New York
Original Date
Excerpt from a review by George Priddle, geographer (University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) in Environmental History, Vol. 1, #1, Jan. 1996, p. 129: Gordon Whitney's book should be of considerable interest to a wide audience that is curious about the evolution of landscape not only in temperate North America but also in Britain and Europe, where most early post-contact immigrants originated. In this carefully researched book Whitney explores many popular myths and he questions accepted truisms. The book has 105 pages of references for 337 pages of text, an indication of the author's level of research. The book's second chapter ... is a review of the methodology involved in reconstructing the forest from the beginning of human habitation to the present. The author then discusses the nature of the primeval forest, the impact of the "native" people, the European experience with forest management, and why the lessons from European experience were not implemented in North America. Chapters 7, 8 and 9 are about the "assault upon the forest and look at the impact of farmers, loggers, and fuelwood gatherers. The author deals effectively with the significance of exotics and the loss of native species. One of the final chapters, entitled "the legislated landscape," discusses the established of parks and reserves. Whitney's book should appeal to a wide audience of people interest in the evolution of landscape.