William Cronon

William Cronon is a historian who studies changing relationships between people and the North American environment. His first book, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, which was published in 1983, traced ecological changes in colonial New England. It won the Francis Parkman Prize, and is considered one of the founding works of American environmental history.

In 1991, his book, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, was awarded the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize; the Bancroft Prize; and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. His 1995 edited volume, Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, examined the implications of different cultural ideas of nature for modern environmental problems. He has long been at work on a history of Portage, Wisconsin, which will explore how people’s sense of place is shaped by the stories they tell about their homes, their lives, and the landscapes they inhabit. Cronon is also completing a book entitled Saving the Land We Love that will explore the many meanings of land and landscape in the history of the United States, focusing especially on how these have shaped environmental politics over time.

In 1992, Cronon became the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, & Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He had previously been a member of the Yale History Department for more than a decade. He is a past President of the American Society for Environmental History and the American Historical Association. He serves on the Governing Council of The Wilderness Society and was the founding editor of the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books Series of the University of Washington Press. He received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; an M.A., M.Phil. and a Ph.D. from Yale, and a D.Phil. from Oxford University. He has been a Rhodes Scholar, Danforth Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and MacArthur Fellow.

Why I believe in protecting land and creating parks:
As an environmental historian, I believe that one cannot understand the United States of America without coming to terms with the myriad ways in which our changing uses of land and relationships with nature have defined us as a nation. Parks and protected landscapes are among the most important places where Americans not only reconnect themselves with the natural world, but also explore our nation’s history and the ways it shapes all of our lives.

Why I support The Trust for Public Land:
Few organizations in the United States have done more than the Trust for Public Land to protect parks, natural areas, and other cherished places across the entire spectrum of the American landscape, from inner cities to suburbs to working lands to wilderness. I admire the thoughtfulness, professionalism, and willingness to take risks on behalf of the public good that characterize all of TPL’s work, as well as its willingness to partner with Americans all over the country to protect the places we all love.