Thomas Malthus once said, "The happiness of the Americans depended much less upon their peculiar degree of civilization than . . . upon their having a great plenty of fertile uncultivated land."
Malthus knew. Lord MacCaulay knew. Albert Gallatin knew. America and its people would change as a growing population whittled away the supply of land.
Nothing has shaped the American character like the abundance of land that met the colonist, the pioneer, and the early suburbanite. With today's political and economic institutions shaped by the largesse of yesteryear, how will Americans fare in the new landscape of water wars, expensive housing, rising fuel prices, environmental and property rights battles, and powerful industrial lobbies?
Why is land the key to American democracy? How can we protect our democracy as more people and industries compete more intensively for our remaining resources? Americans and Their Land begins an important, overdue discussion of these questions. Anne Mackin takes the reader story by story from frontier history to the present and shows how land shaped the American political landscape. She shows how our evolving traditions of apportioning resources have allowed diminished supplies to create our present, increasingly unequal society, and she asks how 300 million Americans living in the new American landscape of growing competition can better share those resources.
Cover image © Royalty-free/Corbis
"Americans and Their Land is not meant to be a definitive chronicle or a comprehensive history; rather it is a critical essay and invaluable primer—a captivating digest for anybody interested in the origins and emergence of America's settlement pattern."
—Harvard Design Magazine