Camping Grounds: Public Nature in American Life from the Civil War to the Occupy Movement

Oxford Univ. May 2021. 432p. ISBN 9780195372410. $34.95. HIST
Young (history, Univ. of Colorado Boulder) traces modern camping from the Civil War to the present day. In her telling, camping was founded in consumerism based on a back-to-the-land ethos and had different implications for the people who could choose to camp, and the people who were forced by their socioeconomic conditions to live outdoors. In the 19th century, Civil War veterans used the practice of camping out to commiserate and to advocate for government change; the veterans’ model for political protest was adopted in the 20th century by the Poor Peoples Campaign, and other social change groups. Also in the 19th century, John Muir and other white Americans headed West into lands they purported to be pristine or untouched. In reality, these were areas from which Indigenous peoples had been brutally removed and their ancestral lands stolen to create space for white settlers’ recreation and agriculture. In the modern era, the National Outdoor Leadership School taught visitors how to interact with and understand public lands in the U.S.; attitudes shifted from take-what-you-want outdoorsmanship, to environmental stewardhip and the consumption of expensive, environmentally-taxing outdoor gear.
VERDICT A varied and comprehensive overview of modern camping with ample detail and sociological perspective on the origins of camping and its roles in war, protest, consumerism, and class discrimination.
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