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WINNER OF THE 2012 DASHER AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING LITERARY SCHOLARSHIP
Henry David Thoreau, one of America's most prominent environmental writers, supported himself as a land surveyor for much of his life, parceling land that would be sold off to loggers. In the only study of its kind, Patrick Chura analyzes this seeming contradiction to show how the best surveyor in Concord combined civil engineering with civil disobedience.
Placing Thoreau's surveying in historical context, Thoreau the Land Surveyor explains the cultural and ideological implications of surveying work in the mid-nineteenth century. Chura explains the ways that Thoreau's environmentalist disposition and philosophical convictions asserted themselves even as he reduced the land to measurable terms and acted as an agent for bringing it under proprietary control. He also describes in detail Thoreau's 1846 survey of Walden Pond. By identifying the origins of Walden in--of all places--surveying data, Chura re-creates a previously lost supporting manuscript of this American classic.