Chicago: The windy city, The second city, The city of broad shoulders, and recently Chiraq. Take your pick, the city has rich traditions, great sports (at times) and infinite nicknames, but how well do you really know Chicago?
William Cronon’s “Nature’s Metropolis” takes readers on a journey from Chicago’s infancy in the 1830’s as real estate prices soared and land speculators flocked to the city to the White City and Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair.
While this is a scholarly book drawing on research and data, it reads more like a biography of a city. Cronon delivers valuable and insightful information page after page making for more than just a dry historical read.
As Cronon warns in the prologue those looking for a book dedicated to architecture, neighborhood development, labor struggles or the like should look elsewhere. Instead, Cronon studies the emergence of the Great West from an environmental standpoint. Focusing his efforts on that area directly outside of Chicago as central to the development of the metropolis.
The result is a uniquely fresh perspective on Chicago’s emergence and subsequent domination over the meat, grain and lumber markets and the city’s impact on the development of the west. Cronon paints a picture of a city that exploded not because of its industry, but because of its geographical location.
Chicago enthusiasts will be intrigued with the attention to the development of Chicago Board of Trade and the startling brutality of the meatpacking industry.
In a time in which Chicago has been taking a lot of criticism Cronon leaves us with a compelling story of Chicago’s alienation of the natural landscape that helped propel Chicago into one of the most talked about cities in the world.
Praise for Nature’s Metropolis
“No one has ever written a better book about a city…No one has written about Chicago with more power, clarity and intelligence than Cronon.” -Kenneth T. Jackson, Boston Globe
“Thoroughly original… Likely to become a small classic… Illuminating… Brilliant.” -Donald L. Miller, New York Times Book Review