What can we learn from a high-country valley tucked into an isolated corner of Rocky Mountain National Park? In this pathbreaking book, Thomas Andrews offers a meditation on the environmental and historical pressures that have shaped and reshaped one small stretch of North America, from the last ice age to the advent of the Anthropocene and the latest controversies over climate change.
Large-scale historical approaches continue to make monumental contributions to our understanding of the past, Andrews writes. But they are incapable of revealing everything we need to know about the interconnected workings of nature and human history. Alongside native peoples, miners, homesteaders, tourists, and conservationists, Andrews considers elk, willows, gold, mountain pine beetles, and the Colorado River as vital historical subjects. Integrating evidence from several historical fields with insights from ecology, archaeology, geology, and wildlife biology, this work simultaneously invites scientists to take history seriously and prevails upon historians to give other ways of knowing the past the attention they deserve.
From the emergence and dispossession of the Nuche—“the People”—who for centuries adapted to a stubborn environment, to settlers intent on exploiting the land, to forest-destroying insect invasions and a warming climate that is pushing entire ecosystems to the brink of extinction, Coyote Valley underscores the value of deep drilling into local history for core relationships—to the land, climate, and other species—that complement broader truths. This book brings to the surface the critical lessons that only small and seemingly unimportant places on Earth can teach.
Andrews has both the broad vision and the penetrating focus that major historians need… Overall a compelling [book].
Andrews’s Coyote Valley is a marvelous example of the intersection not only of agricultural and environmental history but also of public and academic history… Andrews also makes a strong case for a deep-history approach to landscape history.
In this smart and ambitious book, Thomas G. Andrews tries to reconcile large and small by focusing on the Kawuneeche Valley of Colorado (Coyote Valley, as translated from Arapaho), a part of Rocky Mountain National Park… The many successes and occasional shortcomings of Andrews’s efforts underscore the challenges of mastering space and scale. More important, this book is a model for breaking down needless barriers between public history and academic history.
Andrews covers much ground—eons of time, too—from the prehistoric era to the present to offer a ‘deep history’ of a small patch of ground in the Rockies… Those with environmental concerns and others with interests in Native history will derive much from Andrews’ fine book.
Andrews has followed up his Bancroft Prize–winning Killing for Coal with an exquisitely wrought portrait of an out-of-the-way place that must be central to our understanding of the American West’s past, present, and future: the headwaters of the Colorado River in what today is Rocky Mountain National Park. Coyote Valley is brilliant and beautiful, a must-read for anyone interested in the complex history of the nation’s iconic landscapes.
In this gracefully written, insightful, deeply researched history of an under-studied part of North America, Andrews tells a story of the fracturing of an environmental order. The chronological scope and interdisciplinary breadth of the work are impressive. This is environmental history at its best.
Those interested to learn how historians now write about the ever-changing dynamics among people, nature, and culture need look no further than this book. Coyote Valley defines the cutting edge of environmental history.
- 352 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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