restricted access Mount Mitchell & the Black Mountains: An Environmental History of the Highest Peaks in Eastern North America (review)
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REVIEWS309 Perhaps these questions can serve as a necessary springboard for future research by this and other authors as we seek to bring rural women into a more central discussion of agriculture, not only historically but in the changing context of agriculture in the 21st century. In conclusion, I suggest that the chapters focusing on the development of the home extension agent program are perhaps the most enlightening because they address the bridges built between state and federal agricultural programs and the women on the farms. In addition, the comparison between Black and White agents is worthwhile as we examine current attempts to make advice useful to all races and ethnicities. The six chapters of the book tend to read better as individual articles. The lack of a strong recurring theme results in weak cohesion among the individual chapters. The omission of a conclusion is especially noticeable because one wants very much to reach a final assessment of the contributions of these rural Southern women who really did work so incredibly hard to improve their families' status in rural communities. LITERATURE CITED Butler, J. S. 1991. Entrepreneurship and Self-Help among Black Americans (Albany, NY: State University ofNew York Press). Marsden, T. 1994. "Opening the Boundaries of the Rural Experience: Progressing Critical Tensions," Progress in Human Geography, Vol. 18, pp. 523-531. Moser, C. O. N. 1987. "Women, Human Settlements, and Housing: A Conceptual Framework for Analysis and Policy-Making." In Women, Human Settlements and Housing, C. O. N. Moser and L. Peake, eds. (London, UK: Tavistock Publications), pp. 12-32. Walker, J. E. K. 1998. The History ofBlackBusiness in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship (New York, NY: Macmillan Library Reference). Mount Mitchell & the Black Mountains: An Environmental History of the Highest Peaks in Eastern North America. Timothy Silver. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC 2003. 346 pp., illustrations, maps, notes, index. $39.95 hardcover (ISBN 0-8078-2755-X); $19.95 paperback (ISBN 08078 -5423-9). Dan Royall Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains is the story of how the modern environment in and around this portion ofthe Southern Appalachian Mountains in North Dr. Royall is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University ofNorth Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, 27402-6170. E-mail: 310REVIEWS Carolina came to be. Although the book contains treatment of diverse environmental topics, author and historian Timothy Silver (Appalachian State University) focuses primarily on vegetation and wildlife in this interesting and accessible account. The bulk ofthe book regards human-environment interaction, emphasizing the post-European contact period. Consistent with this focus on recent history, a recurrent theme throughout the book is the pervasiveness of human influence on Black Mountains environments, which today are viewed by many visitors as wild and pristine. Silver argues that to understand Mount Mitchell environments, it is important to think ofnature as being an active player in the mix of influences shaping the area, rather than a passive entity that people are given responsibility for controlling. The reason for this is that even the best-informed management practices intended to preserve the resource were frequently confounded by an unanticipated complexity of natural responses; nature pursued its own agenda. It is an approach clearly emphasizing not how much we know, but how much we do not, and it speaks to modern efforts in a similar vein. Each of the six chapters (exclusive of the Conclusion) is divided into four sections , each of which begins with a personal commentary recounting a number of visits to the mountains made by the author during the course ofwriting. The chapters are time-sequential. Chapter 1, "Origins" presents a summary ofthe geological history ofthe Range and its physiography (hydrography, biogeography, climate and some geomorphology). Geographers may find minor problems in currency, phrasing , terminology and occasionally in the descriptions of events (for example, that the current climate on mountain peaks is relict from the ice ages, references to W. M. Davis' erosion cycle, and the statement that glacier advance turned "mountaintops into tundra"). Such occurrences are less apparent in sections devoted to vegetation (again, seemingly the author's forte), and Silver's treatment of succession and equilibrium concepts is especially...