Synopses & Reviews
The Hill and Wang Critical Issues Series: concise, affordable works on pivotal topics in American history, society, and politics.
In this pioneering study, White explores the relationship between the natural history of the Columbia River and the human history of the Pacific Northwest for both whites and Native Americans. He concentrates on what brings humans and the river together: not only the physical space of the region but also, and primarily, energy and work. For working with the river has been central to Pacific Northwesterners' competing ways of life. It is in this way that White comes to view the Columbia River as an organic machine--with conflicting human and natural claims--and to show that whatever separation exists between humans and nature exists to be crossed.
"Visionary . . . White has posed a brilliant new model for environmental history."--Howard R. Lamar, Yale University
"A crystalline gem of a book. White makes the transformation of the Columbia River basin into a compelling microhistory of the encounter between the forces of technology and nature in America."--Leo Marx, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"White has done something remarkable: he has shown us a way of thinking that connects our deep history to the present and sees our most essential human habits--work, in this case--as inseparable from the places we inhabit."--Elliott West, University of Arkansas
In The Organic Machine, Richard White, a distinguished historian and leading scholar of the American West, explores the intimate relationship between nature and mankind along the Columbia River. Working on the cutting edge of environmental and social history, White demonstrates how, over the centuries, both native peoples and settlers have continually remade the river, treating it as a machine designed to churn out energy and sustenance. He assesses the impact on the Northwest ecology of enterprises that have marked the river's history, from salmon fishing to the Hanford Energy Works nuclear plant, and eloquently reveals the insights and illusions of those who work with the river.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -124).
About the Author
Richard White, professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle, is the author of The Middle Ground and It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own and the recipient of the Albert J. Beveridge and Western Heritage awards.