Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reading for Life: Nature's Metropolis

Book recommendation from Professor Stephen Malpezzi's Reading for Life list:

Cronon, William. Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. W.W. Norton, 1991.

Bill Cronon is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at UW–Madison. He is a leading historian on environmental issues as well as the development of Chicago.

In his book, he explains how Chicago rose from a small Midwestern town of just a few thousand people to one of the big U.S. cities in only a few decades. The city's position as a focal point for the meatpacking and farming industries blossomed as a result of the railway connecting it with the East Coast and the invention of the refrigerated rail car.

Even though the book is principally about Chicago, much is written about the surrounding area of Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Madison's particular contribution was ice. Lakes Mendota and Monona supplied ice that cooled those refrigerated boxcars.

Just the thing on a hot summer day! Read more about Professor Malpezzi's Reading for Life list here and catch up on previous posts in the series here.


  1. This book presents a very thorough history of Chicago and, more generally, urbanization in the U.S. Really interesting anecdotes and my guess would be it would teach you a few (or more) things you didn't know before.

  2. The author's easy natural style makes this book a real pleasure to read. His thesis is so intriguing that the book difficult to put down. The explanation of the interaction of town and country, and how each organizes the other, is fascinating. The book contains a careful balance between theory and rich details about the industries that drove Chicago's growth -rail, timber, and meat packing...

  3. This historical book is a really interesting read! I have applied several chapters in my undergraduate classes to get my students to understand and relates to how markets emerge and change. That markets emerges locally and that it takes a lot of organizing, technologies to get to what economist call "the market".

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