It is difficult for many environmental historians to reconcile Theodore Roosevelt’s love of hunting with his wildlife conservation record. How can a man who set aside millions of acres of public land as wildlife refuges, national monuments, and national parks be the same man who led an African safari that killed over five hundred animals? Darrin Lunde’s biography of Theodore Roosevelt provides readers a greater understanding of Roosevelt’s love of hunting and how it paralleled his role as a scientist. This new book provides readers an opportunity to view Roosevelt in a new light, gaining a deeper understanding of his dual roles as hunter and naturalist. Past biographers either condemned or felt obligated to defend Roosevelt’s love of hunting. Some characterize Roosevelt as a “game butcher”; others argue Roosevelt’s primary motivation for advocating wildlife conservation was simply to ensure future prey for fellow sport hunters. Serious studies of Roosevelt as a sport hunter and conservationist were completed by Paul Schullery, John F. Rieger, Paul Cutright and James Posewitz. These works consider Roosevelt’s love of big game hunting and how it shaped the American conservation movement through the establishment of the Boone and Crocket Club with fellow naturalist George Bird Grinnell. Douglas Brinkley considered Roosevelt’s love of nature and hunting and how it shaped Roosevelt’s conservation policies in his massive tome The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. Yet many of these works only touch on the early development of Roosevelt as a scientist and taxidermist to stress the precocious nature of Roosevelt as a child or to highlight his perceived eccentric behavior. Lunde’s work considers Roosevelt’s hunting as a reflection of the specimen-collecting practices of the scientific community in nineteenth-century America. Lunde delves deep into Roosevelt’s role of a naturalist and the importance of accumulating wildlife specimens for study, an activity practiced personally by Lunde who worked as a naturalist for the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian. The author details how many of Roosevelt’s naturalist colleagues maintained cabinets full of birds, insects, and other wildlife, either as a hobby or serious nature studies. In this light, Roosevelt’s collecting of species demonstrates how a young precocious Roosevelt emerged as an equal among the leading naturalists of his day. Lunde’s work also reinforces the concept that although Roosevelt shifted from a career as a professional naturalist into law and politics, his role as a hunter-naturalist continued throughout his life. He also brought vast public attention to wildlife behavior and habitat within the United States and Africa. This biography clearly demonstrates how Roosevelt’s love of hunting and science greatly contributed to the field of natural history. Lunde’s account is well written and a lively read. It will appeal to a variety of readers. Lunde mainly consulted many of Roosevelt and his contemporaries’ published writings, along with the popular biographies of Roosevelt. He also consulted a source overlooked by many past historians and biographers, Roosevelt’s collections of wildlife specimens housed within the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian. This collection of Roosevelt’s taxidermy reminds readers that Roosevelt’s contribution to the field of natural history goes beyond his popular and scientific writings by providing a collection of specimens that scientists continue to consult for their own research. Lunde’s background as a wildlife biologist enhances the unique scholarly nature of the book. His ability to convey his own skill and knowledge needed to collect and preserve wildlife specimens also demonstrates a unique skill set possessed by the many-sided Roosevelt. This work appeals to a general audience and would be a good textbook for undergraduate and graduate students. Environmental historians and scholars will also appreciate Lunde’s take on Roosevelt. All readers will appreciate the author’s interpretation of the intriguing scientific background of Theodore Roosevelt and gain greater knowledge of his role as a hunter, a specimen collector, a conservationist, and a naturalist. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Environmental History – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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