Combined Academic Publishers

Car Country

9780295992150: Hardback
Release Date: 23rd January 2013

9780295994291: Paperback
Release Date: 9th July 2014

61 illus., 7 maps

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 464

Series Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books

University of Washington Press

Car Country

An Environmental History

Written by
Christopher W. Wells
Foreword by
William Cronon
Hardback / £69.00
Paperback / £18.99

For most people in the United States, going almost anywhere begins with reaching for the car keys. This is true, Christopher Wells argues, because the United States is Car Country—a nation dominated by landscapes that are difficult, inconvenient, and often unsafe to navigate by those who are not sitting behind the wheel of a car.

The prevalence of car-dependent landscapes seems perfectly natural to us today, but it is, in fact, a relatively new historical development. In Car Country, Wells rejects the idea that the nation's automotive status quo can be explained as a simple byproduct of an ardent love affair with the automobile. Instead, he takes readers on a tour of the evolving American landscape, charting the ways that transportation policies and land-use practices have combined to reshape nearly every element of the built environment around the easy movement of automobiles. Wells untangles the complicated relationships between automobiles and the environment, allowing readers to see the everyday world in a completely new way. The result is a history that is essential for understanding American transportation and land-use issues today.

Watch the book trailer:

Foreword by William Cronon Acknowledgments Prologue: A Car of One’s Own

Part One | Before the Automobile, 1880-19051. Roads and Reformers

Part Two | Dawn of the Motor Age, 1895-19192. Automotive Pioneers 3. Building for Traffic Photo Gallery One

Part Three | Creating Car Country, 1919-19414. Motor-Age Geography 5. Fueling the Boom 6. The Paths Out of Town Photo Gallery Two

Part Four | New Patterns, New Standards, New Landscapes, 1940-19607. Suburban Nation

Epilogue | Reaching for the Car Keys Notes Selected Bibliography Index

Christopher W. Wells is associate professor of environmental history at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Car Country is arguably the most carefully researched, clearly written, and consistently engaging study anyone has yet written exploring the far-flung and extraordinarily complicated landscapes created by and for automobiles in the twentieth-century United States. The story is all the more remarkable because most of us who now inhabit this landscape take it so much for granted without having the slightest clue how it came into being.

William Cronon, from the Foreword

Car Country offers a valuable historical perspective that is directly related to many pressing contemporary issues.

Owen D. Gutfreund, author of Twentieth Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape

For students and inhabitants of car country, Wells offers a terrific excavation of the sprawlscape that still drives our days.

Human Ecology

A fresh, well-documented history of roadbuilding policies in the United States between 1900 and 1960.

James M. Rubenstein
Journal of American History

One of the great strengths of the book is Wells’s meticulous work in revealing how the institutional, economic, and mental arrangements supporting ‘Car Country’ were set in place during the interwar years. . . . Wells’s book is a remarkable achievement.

Theodore Strathman
Southern California Quarterly

Relatively few academic geographers have focused their research and publishing directly on the automobile and its geographical implications for life in the United States. Yet nothing over the past century has had a greater effect on America’s geography than the public’s evolving dependence on the motor car, and, as well, the motor truck. . . . Christopher Wells’s opus will excite more geographers to focus on automobility as a fundamental factor underlying the American experience.

John A. Jackle
The AAG Review of Books

In Car Country, Christopher W. Wells offers a compelling history of America’s signature car-dependent landscapes. With lively anecdotes, effective imagery, and dozens of illustrations, the book also presents an accessible narrative that will help students visualize how Americans gradually and profoundly transformed their nation.

Michael R. Fine
American Historical Review

Wells has produced an important and persuasive new chapter in the history of American car culture.

David Blanke
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

[Car Country] is an excellent and needed addition to the still remarkably small literature that explores the combined histories of Americans, automobiles, and the environment.

Tom McCarthy
The Michigan Historical Review

Wells argues that in order to understand how automobility has become so deeply ‘locked in’ to contemporary American society, historians and geographers would do better to focus on the built landscape . . . [Car Country] belongs in the library of anyone interested in transportation, infrastructure, mobility, and land-use in twentieth-century America.

Ben Bradley
Journal of Historical Geography

Wells has produced an important and persuasive new chapter in the history of American car culture.

David Blanke
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

[I]maginative and accessible. . . . General US historians should pay attention to Car Country. It joins a growing body of environmental history that is revising the traditional narrative of US history.

Janet Ore