Inspired by the purchase of his own tract of land in The Oblong, a part of the Berkshires once claimed by Connecticut but now part of New York State, Winchester’s latest is not so much a narrative history as a survey. Land looks at the development of mapping (including the International Map of the World project, whose archives wound up at UWM), and how the fight for land has affected development and cultural change, most notably, what would happen when Europeans collided with Natives in the Americas, Africa, Australia, and elsewhere. Chapters focus on the Partition of India, the creation of Israel, America’s Trail of Tears, and Northern Ireland. He looks at the very different ways countries look at trespassing, how Holland created a province out of the sea, and Scotland’s shift away from landed gentry and towards community ownership. Land is a fascinating story, and as always, Winchester’s telling is both elegant and accessible. If we had a geography section at the bookstore, this would be a core title!— Daniel Goldin
The author of The Professor and the Madman and The Perfectionists explores the notion of property--our proprietary relationship with the land--through human history, how it has shaped us and what it will mean for our future. Land--whether meadow or mountainside, desert or peat bog, parkland or pasture, suburb or city--is central to our existence. It quite literally underlies and underpins everything. Employing the keen intellect, insatiable curiosity, and narrative verve that are the foundations of his previous bestselling works, Simon Winchester examines what we human beings are doing--and have done--with the billions of acres that together make up the solid surface of our planet.
Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World examines in depth how we acquire land, how we steward it, how and why we fight over it, and finally, how we can, and on occasion do, come to share it. Ultimately, Winchester confronts the essential question: who actually owns the world's land--and why does it matter?
Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.