The contemporary American landscape of cities, suburbs, and malls; highways, rails, and controlled rivers; fields and fences; and factories, mines, and ports, is the product of a long process of extraction, production, and exchange of natural resources: their transformation into commodities. In this seminar we will explore these transformations through maps, documents, and images from across four centuries and from coast to coast, beginning with a focus on the lumber, grain, and iron industries in and around Chicago and the Great Lakes. We will go on to consider the significance of other commodities such as fur, cotton, gold, livestock, fish, coal, oil, water, power, the land itself, and their place in westward expansion, industrialization, urbanization, and the development of infrastructure. We will also consider how our relationship with commodities may have changed the way we have perceived the landscape over time.
Registration will open on September 16, 2013.