This Delta, This Land

An Environmental History of the Yazoo-Mississippi Floodplain

Title Details

Pages: 400

Illustrations: 6 b&w photos and 1 figure

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 02/21/2005

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2673-3

List Price: $36.95

This Delta, This Land

An Environmental History of the Yazoo-Mississippi Floodplain

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  • Description
  • Reviews

This Delta, This Land is a comprehensive environmental history of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta—the first one to place the Delta's economic and cultural history in an environmental context. The Delta, the floodplain between two great rivers in the northwestern corner of Mississippi, has changed enormously since the Civil War. Agriculture, lumbering, and flood-management schemes have transformed it beyond recognition—and beyond any prospects for a full recovery.

However, says Mikko Saikku, the 150 years following the Civil War brought greater environmental change than we generally realize. Indeed, the long-term environmental history of the Delta is much more complex than our current view of it, which privileges recent periods rather than presenting the entire continuum. Looking across thousands of years, Saikku examines successive human societies in the Delta, drawing connections between environmental and social problems and noting differences between Native Americans and Euro-Americans in their economies, modes of production, and land-use patterns.

Saikku's range of sources is astonishing: travel literature, naturalists' writings, government records, company archives, archaeological data, private correspondence, and more. As he documents how such factors as climate and water levels shaped the Delta, he also reveals the human aspects of the region's natural history, including land reclamation, slave and sharecropper economies, ethnic and racial perceptions of land ownership and stewardship, and even blues music.

Saikku's is a refreshingly northern European take on an interesting and important aspect of North American environmental history. He is comfortable with geology, paleontology, botany, and zoology, and he has mastered not only historians' methodologies and 'theories' but those of scientists as well. He is deserving of respect.

—Jack Temple Kirby, author of Poquosin: A Study of Rural Landscape and Society

This Delta, This Land is Faulknerian in scale—rich in sense of place, broad in implications. This is what environmental history needs right now—a work that puts ecology and economy back into the center of the picture, without neglecting the cultural meanings of nature. It is redolent of a place that looms large in American history, literature, and folklore. An outstanding contribution.

—Donald Worster, Hall Distinguished Professor, University of Kansas

Often publications in American environmental history, written by born-and-bred Americans with various axes to grind, are too broad in subject matter and too parochial in interpretation. This book, a history of a specific region, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, by a scientifically sophisticated, deeply informed European scholar who only wants to know what happened, is a happy exception.

—Alfred W. Crosby, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin

This book is highly recommended for an academic audience or an interested general reader.

Environment and History

Saikku's sweeping study will appeal even to those steeped in Delta history. He weaves together an impressive body of secondary works, travel accounts, and primary sources.

Journal of Southern History

An essential addition to the core collection of anyone seriously interested in understanding our Delta. Make room on your bookshelf next to Lanterns on the Levee, Most Southern Place on Earth, Development Arrested, and Forgotten Time.

Life in the Delta Magazine

A wonderful piece of work in concept, research, and writing.

—James Fickle, Professor of History, University of Memphis

The strength of this book is its weighty compendium of scientific information about the floodplain’s natural setting . . . an impressive variety of sources . . . Saikku’s detailed look at timbering on the Delta’s Panther-Burn Plantation is a superb case study of boom-bust industrialization.

Environmental History

About the Author/Editor

MIKKO SAIKKU is a lecturer in North American Studies at the University of Helsinki.