Leo Marx is the Kenan Professor of American Cultural History (Emeritus) at MIT and most recently the editor, with Bruce Mazlish, of Progress:Fact or Illusion? (July 1999)

The Full Thoreau

The Puritans of today’s environmental movement, the ecocentrists, have recently made Henry Thoreau their patron saint. The defense of the environment, they believe, requires us to adopt a wholly new way of thinking about our relations with nature. First, they argue, we must abandon the delusory notion that humanity’s chief …

The Struggle Over Thoreau

“‘Tis said that the views of nature held by any people determine all their institutions.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson,English Traits Ecocentrists are the Puritans of today’s environmental movement. Dedicated to changing the way we think about humanity’s relations with nature, they are critical of anyone—whether an environmentalist or a despoiler—who …

A Visit to Mr. America

Individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but in the long run it attacks and destroys all others and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness. —Alexis de Tocqueville Probably no impression Tocqueville had during his 1831–1832 tour of the United States was more provocative—or dismaying—than …

All in the Family

“For in this world of lies, Truth is forced to fly like a scared white doe in the woodlands; and only by cunning glimpses will she reveal herself, as in Shakespeare and other masters of the great Art of Telling the—even though it be covertly, and by snatches.” —Herman Melville, …

Closely Watched Trains

Of all the great modern innovations, the railroad may well be the one to which historians have accorded the most dramatic and far-reaching influence. No sooner had the first passenger railroads begun operations in England and the United States, around 1830, than the public was seized by what was called, …

The Two Thoreaus

Until 1965, when Walter Harding’s careful biography. The Days of Henry Thoreau, was published, we had nothing like a reliable, comprehensive record of Henry Thoreau’s life. Richard Lebeaux is the first scholar to use that book as a basis for a fresh examination of the writer’s inner life. The findings …