Car Country

An Environmental History

Christopher W. Wells
Foreword by William Cronon

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  • $40.00s hardcover (9780295992150) Add to Cart
  • Published: December 2012
  • Subject Listing: Environmental History, Transportation History
  • Bibliographic information: 464 pp., 44 illus., 7 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
  • Contents

For most people in the United States, going almost anywhere begins with reaching for the car keys. This is true, Christopher Wells argues, because the United States is Car Country - a nation dominated by landscapes that are difficult, inconvenient, and often even unsafe to navigate by those who are not sitting behind the wheel of a car.

The prevalence of car-dependent landscapes seems perfectly natural to us today, but it is, in fact, a relatively new historical development. In Car Country, Wells rejects the idea that the nation's automotive status quo can be explained as a simple byproduct of an ardent love affair with the automobile. Instead, he takes readers on a lively tour of the evolving American landscape, charting the ways that new transportation policies and land-use practices have combined to reshape nearly every element of the built environment around the easy movement of automobiles.

From the dawn of the motor age to the establishment of the Interstate Highway System and the rise of the suburbs, Wells untangles the complicated relationships between automobiles and the environment, allowing readers to see the everyday world in a completely new way. The result is a history that is essential for understanding American transportation and land-use issues today.

Christopher W. Wells is associate professor of environmental history at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"Wells seeks in this lively, playful, and wonderfully accessible account to introduce readers to the transformations wrought upon the national landscape of the United States to make it fit for Americans and their cars. . . . To grasp the complexities and fascinations and paradoxes of Car Country, I know of no better guide than this engaging book."-from the Foreword by William Cronon

"Car Country offers a valuable historical perspective that is directly related to many pressing contemporary issues."-Owen D. Gutfreund, author of Twentieth-Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape

"Car Country is the most comprehensive recent synthesis of the automobile in twentieth-century America. Of unusual scope and readability."-Peter D. Norton, author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City

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“Car Country is a valuable addition to our knowledge on urban development, the environmental impact of automobiles, and the evolution of the twentieth-century American landscape.”
-Erik Loomis, Enterprise and Society, November 18, 2013

“[F]or students and inhabitants of car country, Wells offers a terrific excavation of the sprawlscape that still drives our days.”
-Virginia Scharff, Human Ecology, November 2013

“One of the great strengths of the book is Wells’s meticulous work in revealing how the institutional, economic, and mental arrangements supporting Car Country were set in place during the interwar years…Wells’s book is a remarkable achievement.” -Theodore Strathman, Southern California Quarterly