In his book, “The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States,” Mark Fiege re-frames the canonical account of American history based on the simple but radical premise that nothing in the nation's past can be considered apart from the natural circumstances in which it occurred. Among the historical moments he revisits under this new framework: a revolutionary nation arises from its environment and struggles to reconcile the diversity of its people with the claim that nature is the source of liberty.
Abraham Lincoln, an unlettered citizen from the countryside, steers the Union through a moment of extreme peril, guided by his vision of nature's capacity for improvement. In Topeka, Kansas, transformations of land and life prompt a lawsuit that culminates in Brown v. Board of Education. By focusing on materials and processes intrinsic to all things and by highlighting the nature of the United States, Fiege seeks to recover the forgotten and overlooked ground on which so much history has unfolded. “The Republic of Nature” points to a different version of history that prompts us to reconnect with fundamental forces that shaped the American experience. Mark Fiege is Professor of History at Colorado State University. He is the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Author for the 2013 Utah Humanities Book Festival. Fiege will appear at the State Archives October 3 at noon as part of Utah State Archives Month and discuss his work that evening at 7:00 p.m. the Salt Lake Public Library.