Monday, November 15, 2010

More BIll Cronon

I just finished my third reading of Nature's Metropolis, which I am teaching tomorrow.  It is among the best works on central place theory and aggomeration that I know. 

He also paints vivid pictures of wheat being harvested and shipped to the White City's great grain elevators, the lumbermills of Marquette and Marrinette, of timber sliding down ice flows and floating down rivers and lakes; we can smell the entrails from the slaughtered cattle and pigs, and imagine how the Chicago River South Branch bubbles with potions not even the Weird Sisters could have imagined.  He established how it became a metropolis by not becoming a new center of the center, but rather the center of the periphery. 

We can see how the city raised living standards--standards that 130 years later we would (rightfully) deem appalling.  His picture of Chicago, warts and all, is far more entralling than Sinclair's picture. 

Couldn't we get him to do Tokyo now?  Mexico City?  How about Los Angeles?  Kevin Starr has written a great history of California, but Cronon's angle would be different.