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Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation [Paperback]

Karl Jacoby
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 3, 2003 0520239091 978-0520239098 0
Crimes against Nature reveals the hidden history behind three of the nation's first parklands: the Adirondacks, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. Focusing on conservation's impact on local inhabitants, Karl Jacoby traces the effect of criminalizing such traditional practices as hunting, fishing, foraging, and timber cutting in the newly created parks. Jacoby reassesses the nature of these "crimes" and provides a rich portrait of rural people and their relationship with the natural world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Editorial Reviews


"A well-conceived, solidly researched, and clearly written work with important conclusions but even richer possibilities. Anyone interested in environmental history or the contributions it can make to other fields in our discipline ought to read it. Anyone interested in important questions and methods in environmental history has to study it carefully."--Thomas Dunlap, Reviews in American History -- Review

From the Inside Flap

"This insightful and lucid book combines social with environmental history, enriching both. . . . Timely, eloquent, and provocative, Crimes against Nature illuminates contemporary struggles, especially in the West, over our environment."—Alan Taylor, author of William Cooper's Town

"A compelling new interpretation of early conservation history in the United States. . . . Powerfully argued and beautifully written, this book could hardly be more relevant to the environmental challenges we face today."—William Cronon, author of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

"What a powerful and yet subtle tale of the fraught encounter between the conservationists' desire to 'engineer' wilderness with the property regime of the modern state and the unique, local, 'moral ecologies' of those who resisted! Rarely has this level of originality, close reasoning, and historical texture been brought into such harmony while preserving the whiff of lived experience."—James C. Scott, author of Seeing Like a State

Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (February 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520239091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520239098
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karl Jacoby is a professor of history and ethnic studies at Columbia University. He lives in New York City with his wife, the novelist Marie Lee, and son, Jason.

With his students, he has created a companion website for Shadows at Dawn, available at:

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lucid book on how we've "created" nature - and outlaws February 13, 2002
Crimes Against Nature is written by one of America's foremost new thinkers on the environment. Karl Jacoby's book has all the beauty and intellectual force his lectures are famous for.
This book gives a startlingly new perspective on just how we've created our national parks. In doing so, he makes us rethink what we consider our proudest achievements - and at what cost we've achieved them. Five stars.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing look at our national parks February 13, 2001
By a mom
"Conservation" seems like a completely positive word--e.g., we want to preserve nature for future generations. I remember how in awe I was when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time.
But after reading Jacoby's book, I feel like I have a whole new perspective. Not that I don't agree that protecting the environment shouldn't be a high priority--for example, I think the idea of drilling into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil when we have all these people driving thes gas-guzzling SUVs is the height of idiocy. But this book shows that there were some human costs to creating the park--the Indians and poor white people who already lived on the land that became parks. I didn't realize that they had the U.S. army patrolling and occupying the Grand Canyon to keep people out--although I do remember thinking that the Forest rangers' uniforms (and Smoky the Bear!) were very militaristic.
Basically, what became parks were already living entities that had people living in and exploiting their natural resources and changing the environment. So now I realize when I see the Grand Canyon, it's not as if it's in a time warp, completely untouched for centuries. I plan to keep traveling and visiting more parts--esp out west, and this book has definitely deepened my understanding of our National Park system!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read December 16, 2011
If you find the filtered news provided by generic channels incomplete, this book will fill part of the void. It's an interesting read and the the information therein is unbiased and verifiable.

Any aficionado or even student of history should appreciate this one.
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