Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845
  • Sep 10, 1983
    444 p., 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

    ISBN: 9780300030464
  • Paper: $37.00 tx
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Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845

  • John R. Stilgoe


"A remarkable book. John Stilgoe has provided us with a panorama of American land development that is unique in the literature of this field. In the process, he has sharpened the reader's perception of the historic struggle between those who would tend the land and those who would exploit it, thus making a significant statement about issues in the forefront at the present day. Stilgoe's global vision over time, combined with his remarkable facility for involving a great variety of elements into one coherent system of thought and feeling, makes this a deeply important and timely work."—Edmund N. Bacon

"In this ambitious and readable study the author traces the shaping of the classic American landscape from the earliest European landings on the continent through the beginning years of the industrial economy."—Ray Murphy, The Boston Globe

"An immensely valuable source book. It is attractively written, extensively notated, and includes an impressive bibliography. Stilgoe presents a fascinating picture of early rural America and not simply as an aesthetic experience; the author fully explains the interaction of people and land over time, and he reflects upon the variations in each."—Michael M. Laurie, Landscape Journal

"Stilgoe provides a wealth of new information on the spaces and structures that shaped the American environment between 1580 and 1845. . . . Focusing on vernacular design and its evolution, Stilgoe effectively demonstrates how builders (rather than professional designers) passed on their traditions from one generation to the next—in so doing shaping Americans' enduring attitudes towards landscape. An original and fascinating study."—Library Journal

"John R. Stilgoe's immensely detailed study . . . tells how the wilderness was transformed into something like a rural paradise. He concentrates on New England and Virginia, in particular. The book ends with the beginning of industrialism, the spread of which is now making the varied United States appear all too alike."—Paul Bailey, Country Life

"Recalls how Europeans shaped this country's landscape out of wilderness and, by the way, helped to create our sense of beauty, comfort, and appropriateness. . . . The European heritage has produced both enduring features, such as the vast Middle Western grid, and present-day relics, such as canals, and towns built around small water-powered factories. A book that will change the way its readers look about them."—New Yorker

"A first-rate introduction to a still largely extant North America away from the great cities. This 400-page documentary by a dedicated exploring scholar explains how and why the landscape changed between the early Spanish settlers and the impact of industrialization."—House and Garden

"One of the most interesting books of the season. . . . It is also a pleasure to have a book with breadth of thought and learning. This work will challenge and assist students of American culture, of tradition and social change, and of the human environment."—H Wayne Morgan, History

"The most remarkable triumph of this splendid work is that its fine scholarship has not in the least diminished what ought to be its wide popular appeal. Anyone who cherishes some part of our vanishing rural landscape will enjoy reading The Common Landscape of America."—Catherine M. Howett, Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Will stand on its own as one of the principle contributions to historical geography and landscape interpretation of the post-World War II era. Geographers who teach or undertake research in these areas will find Stilgoe's book an essential source book, tool, and guide. We look forward to further incisive interpretations of the American landscape from Stilgoe."—George K. Lewis, Geographical Reviews

"Stunning. . . . Having read Common Landscape, it is hard to imagine doing without it as either a teacher or scholar of American history. It introduces whole new areas of source material, raising questions and suggesting conceptual frameworks that prove incontrovertibly how essential interdisciplinary cross-fertilization is to a better understanding of the past."—Stephanie Grauman Wolf, The Journal of American History

"A milestone. John Stilgoe has written a book of remarkable scholarship and breadth. His sources span an array of disciplines and cultures which is daunting, but essential in understanding the settlement of America. His pleasure in conveying this understanding and his ability to evoke landscapes which are alive make this book a delight to read."—Richard Westmacolt, Landscape Design

"Stilgoe's work now supplies a basic reference for American landscape history. . . . The breadth of topics Stilgoe examines is fascinating and gratifying. . . . The research is imaginative and energetic. The writing conveys a contagious enthusiasm for the subject."—Kenneth I. Helphand, Landscape 

"Imaginative and fascinating. . . . [Stilgoe] finds a new way of looking at old material, and he adds the unusual as well. The total effect is to offer an important reinterpretation of how Europeans created an American civilization in the new world. What is perhaps more important, after reading this book you will look with new insight at the landscape around you."—Allen F. Davis, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

"This exceptionally interesting book examines the ways Americans have changed the face of the country with buildings, roads, fences, and other forms of artifice. Elegantly written."—The Washington Post Book World

"Common Landscape is an important exploration of an aspect of American culture that has been too long neglected: the evolution of the man-made environment of the United States beginning in the earliest years and continuing into the nineteenth century. The book is gracefully written. . . . [A] remarkable book."—J. B. Jackson

"This is one of those rare books that instructs without being pedantic. It avoids nostalgia, yet enhances one's understanding of and affection for the American landscape."—Reuben M. Rainey, Architecture: The AIA Journal


"This book is quite a remarkable performance. One is hard put to think of a single work that so comprehensively describes the early American landscape and explains so well how it was shaped by European settlement. The book is a blend of history, historical geography, folklore, and that as yet inadequately recognized field of inquiry, the history of landscape."—Ian M. G. Quimby, Journal of Southern History

"John Stilgoe's ambitious book is arresting and important. . . . Common Landscape of America develops its great themes with impressive intelligence and remarkable range of reference. John Stilgoe's readers, whether general students of American culture or more specialized architectural or landscape historians, will return to their own studies with broadened and freshened perspectives."—James Early, Perspective

"Common Landscape contains a wealth of information. The book is filled with rural lore about which it is a delight to read and learn. . . . Enlightening and delightful."—Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Reviews in American History