Darren Speece

Defending Giants

The Redwood Wars and the Transformation of American Environmental Politics

University of Washington Press 2018

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in the American WestNew Books Network July 12, 2018 Stephen Hausmann

Northern California’s giant redwoods are among the state’s most recognizable natural wonders. These massive trees were also under threat of clear-cut logging for much...

Northern California’s giant redwoods are among the state’s most recognizable natural wonders. These massive trees were also under threat of clear-cut logging for much of the twentieth century, writes Darren Frederick Speece in Defending Giants: The Redwood Wars and the Transformation of American Environmental Politics (University of Washington Press, 2017). The book is an exhaustive study of the California timber industry and the environmentalists who used a wide range of tactics, from sit ins and sabotage to courtroom battles, to protect redwood ecosystems. Speece takes a bottom up approach to this history, telling the story from the perspective of the myriad individuals on both sides of the battle who shaped Pacific Coast environmental politics in the mid to late twentieth century. Defending Giants argues that historians of environmentalism have focused too much on birds-eye, national-level politics and have missed the important front line work performed by rural activists, who often put their lives on the line in protection of forests at risk of disappearing forever.


Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

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