Start your summer of reading with new books that celebrate the natural wonders of the world with The Nature of Writing Series, co-hosted by Village Books and North Cascades Institute. From smart crows to the distant Arctic, American history to environmental memoir, you'll learn more about our wondrous planet through the voices of some of our country's best nature interpreters. Come listen to Mark Fiege talk about his book The Republic of Nature as part of this series. This event is free.
In the dramatic narratives that comprise The Republic of Nature, Mark Fiege reframes the canonical account of American history based on the simple but radical premise that nothing in the nation's past can be considered apart from the natural circumstances in which it occurred. Revisiting historical icons so familiar that schoolchildren learn to take them for granted, he makes surprising connections that enable readers to see old stories in a new light.
Among the historical moments revisited here, a revolutionary nation arises from its environment and struggles to reconcile the diversity of its people with the claim that nature is the source of liberty. Abraham Lincoln, an unlettered citizen from the countryside, steers the Union through a moment of extreme peril, guided by his clear-eyed vision of nature's capacity for improvement. In Topeka, Kansas, transformations of land and life prompt a lawsuit that culminates in the momentous civil rights case of Brown v. Board of Education.
By focusing on materials and processes intrinsic to all things and by highlighting the nature of the United States, Fiege recovers the forgotten and overlooked ground on which so much history has unfolded. In these pages, the nation's birth and development, pain and sorrow, ideals and enduring promise come to life as never before, making a once-familiar past seem new. The Republic of Nature points to a startlingly different version of history that calls on readers to reconnect with fundamental forces that shaped the American experience.
Mark Fiege is an associate professor of history and the William E. Morgan Chair of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. He is the author of Irrigated Eden: The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West.