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May 29, 2010


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"Human history takes place in a physical setting that's not just a backdrop to what occurs there but is a material cause of it. I'm not a historian, but I bet you can make a strong argument that you can't understand southern history without understanding the landscape and the natural communities that are part of this landscape. Forests, rivers, ... See Moresoils—these are the raw materials out of which people make their lives and their histories. Longleaf pine forests, for example, were part of the complex reasons that moved the English to settle Virginia, because the English realized that the trees could be used to make tar, which was essential for their navy. To understand why these trees were so rich in the resin that made tar is to add another dimension to the understanding of human history in America, and southern history in particular."

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