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

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.

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.

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