A book a-borning?
In my recent column about the need for a proper environmental history of Illinois, “Oh, for a Thucydides of the prairie,” I noted that several excellent recent works, while not environmental histories per se, are informed by consciousness of the role that environment played in history. One I mentioned in Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country by Robert Michael Morrissey (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).
I noted that Morrissey, who teaches at the U of I at Urbana, is especially good on the ways that climate shift altered the lifestyles of the Illini nation, obliging them to adopt ways of hunting, indeed a whole economy, from Indians from the drier grasslands to the west.
The good professor informs me that for the past year he has been working away on an environmental history of the tallgrass prairie region (and especially Illinois) over long sweep of roughly 1500 to 1850. Such a book would make a more fitting contribution to the celebrations of the Illinois bicentennial than the carnival of buncombe – my apologies, Mr. Mencken – being put together by the state’s official bicentennial planners.