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Nature and History in the Potomac Country

From Hunter-Gatherers to the Age of Jefferson

James D. Rice

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How environmental forces, and human responses to them, profoundly shaped both Native American and colonial life along the Potomac River.

James D. Rice’s fresh study of the Potomac River basin begins with a mystery. Why, when the whole of the region offered fertile soil and excellent fishing and hunting, was nearly three-quarters of the land uninhabited on the eve of colonization? Rice wonders how the existence of this no man’s land influenced nearby Native American and, later, colonial settlements. Did it function as a commons, as a place where all were free to hunt and fish? Or was it...

How environmental forces, and human responses to them, profoundly shaped both Native American and colonial life along the Potomac River.

James D. Rice’s fresh study of the Potomac River basin begins with a mystery. Why, when the whole of the region offered fertile soil and excellent fishing and hunting, was nearly three-quarters of the land uninhabited on the eve of colonization? Rice wonders how the existence of this no man’s land influenced nearby Native American and, later, colonial settlements. Did it function as a commons, as a place where all were free to hunt and fish? Or was it perceived as a strange and hostile wilderness?

Rice discovers environmental factors at the center of the story. Making use of extensive archaeological and anthropological research, as well as the vast scholarship on farming practices in the colonial period, he traces the region’s history from its earliest known habitation. With exceptionally vivid prose, Rice makes clear the implications of unbridled economic development for the forests, streams, and wetlands of the Potomac River basin. With what effects, Rice asks, did humankind exploit and then alter the landscape and the quality of the river’s waters?

Equal parts environmental, Native American, and colonial history, Nature and History in the Potomac Country is a useful and innovative study of the Potomac River, its valley, and its people.

Reviews

Reviews

A well-executed regional history that serves as a powerful example of the necessity of environmental history focused on the intimate details of both natural and cultural landscapes.

James Rice successfully combines all three endeavors in an impressive study of the interplay of Indians, Europeans, and the environment in the Potomac Valley... Scholars of Indian history, environmental history, early American history, and anyone who wants to take a fresh look at this area of the country will appreciate this fine book.

This refreshing book should serve as a model for future studies of colonial America examining particular places and the peoples who lived there.

This well-written important new book—persuasively argued and firmly rooted in the evidence—deserves a wide readership among students of early America, and it might just help to push the field in a welcome new direction.

Rice's contribution provides a successful model for future studies of the region's colonial history and should prove indispensable for anyone interested in the social, economic, and environmental history of the southern colonies.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
360
ISBN
9781421421513
Illustration Description
6 halftones, 2 line drawings
Table of Contents

Preface
A Note on Language and Usage
Introduction
1. Ahone's Waters
2. Foragers into Farmers
3. "Kings" of the Potomac
4. The Nature of Colonization
5. Peltries and "Papists"
6. "You Come Too Near"
7. Microbes

Preface
A Note on Language and Usage
Introduction
1. Ahone's Waters
2. Foragers into Farmers
3. "Kings" of the Potomac
4. The Nature of Colonization
5. Peltries and "Papists"
6. "You Come Too Near"
7. Microbes, Magistrates, and Migrations
8. "Away with All These Distractions"
9. "Frightened Away by Some Threatening Discourses"
10. "I Can Not Live in This Beautiful Land"
11. The Trouble with Boundaries
12. The Backcountry Transformed
13. "The Finest Country I Ever Was In"
Coda
Notes
Index

Author Bio
James D. Rice
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James D. Rice

James D. Rice is a professor of history at Tufts University. He is the author of Tales from a Revolution: Bacon's Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America.