The Myth of Silent Spring
Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism
University of California Press 2018
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network April 5, 2018 Brian Hamilton
Uncle Tom’s Cabin didn’t start the Civil War and Silent Spring didn’t start the environmental movement. In The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism (University of California Press, 2018), historian Chad Montrie insists that environmental consciousness has been present in the United States since its founding, and that it could be found in places and among people overlooked by Rachel Carson and legions of journalists, historians, and activists in her time and our own. In this, his fourth book working to push the perspectives of social and labor history to the foreground in the grand narrative of American’s relationship with the natural world, Montrie draws on his own research and synthesizes a generation of scholarship to show how a diverse cast of characters—from Lowell mill girls to United Auto Workers executive Olga Madar, from migrant farm laborers in California to Slovenian immigrants in Minnesota, from coal miners fighting black lung to urban residents fighting lead poisoning, and others—perceived industrialization as a threat to their health and quality of life. This inclusive, revisionist history challenges us to rethink the causes, geography, chronology, and content of American environmentalism.
Chad Montrie is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and the author of The Myth of Silent Spring, A People’s History of Environmentalism in the United States, Making a Living: Work and Environment in the United States, and To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia.
Brian Hamilton is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin—Madison where he is researching African American environmental history in the nineteenth-century Cotton South. He is also an editor of the digital environmental magazine and podcast Edge Effects.