This study traces the origins of conservation thinking in America to the naturalists who explored the middle-western frontier between 1740 and 1840. Their inquiries yielded a comprehensive natural history of America and inspired much of the conservation and ecological thinking we associate with later environmental and ecological philosophy. These explorers witnessed one of the great environmental transformations in American history, as the vast forests lying between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi gave way to a landscape of fields, meadows, and pastures.
In debating these changes, naturalists translated classical ideas like the balance of nature and the spiritual unity of all species into an American idiom. The Untilled Garden highlights the contributions made by the generation of natural historians who pioneered the utilitarian, ecological and aesthetic arguments for protecting or preserving nature in America.
"Richard Judd takes us on a lively excursion into the early American backcountry alongside the explorers who travelled through the great Eastern forest as it was being transformed into farmland. Writing in the century before Henry David Thoreau and George Perkins Marsh, this community of scientists helped give voice to Americans' love of nature and prepared the ground for the conservation movement to come."
- Brian Donahue, Brandies University, author of The Great Meadow
"Less a chronological survey than an exploration of the mental universe of early natural history and American independence, The Untilled Garden recovers an emotional and aesthetic approach to nature lost with the rise of professional, academic, objective science. It organizes the multiple voices discussing Americans on the land and gives a rich account of the background to American conservation. A full account of an important part of the American engagement with the land, it offers much to anyone, scholar or ordinary citizen, interested in how Americans saw the land they explored and settled."
- Thomas R. Dunlap, Texas A&M University
Part I. Forging a Scientific Community:
1. 'A country unknown': colonial explorers and their natural history
2. Rambles in Eden
3. 'A despairing curiosity': creating America's scientific academy
Part II. The Natural History of America:
4. Power and purpose in the geological record: the scientific beginnings of American romanticism
5. Integrated landscapes: mountains, rivers, and forests in the balance of nature
6. 'A distant intercourse': animal character and conservation
Part III. Improvers, Romantics, and the Science of Conservation:
7. From forest to fruitful field: settlement and improvement in the Western wilderness
8. The naturalist's mirror: popular science and the roots of romanticism
10. Challenging the idea of improvement
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Richard W. Judd is Col. James C. McBride Professor of History at the University of Maine and editor of the journal Maine History. He is the author of Natural States: The Environmental Imagination in Maine, Oregon, and the Nation (2003); Common Lands, Common People: The Origins of Conservation in Northern New England (1997); and Maine: The Pine Tree State from Prehistory to the Present (1995). His current research includes a survey of New England's environmental history.