As the Mississippi and other midwestern rivers inundated town after town during the summer of 1993, concerned and often angry citizens questioned whether the very technologies and structures intended to "tame" the rivers did not, in fact, increase the severity of the floods. Much of the controversy swirled around the apparent culpability of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the designer and builder of many of the flood control systems that failed. In this book, Todd Shallat probes the origins of the United States' oldest and largest water management agency and explores how the Corps' emphasis on scientific planning cut against the grain of a nation deeply committed to private enterprise and community rights. Combining extensive research with a lively, engaging style, Shallat follows the technological elite of the army from European antecedents through the boom years of river building after the Civil War. He tells the story of monumental construction and engineering fiascoes, public service and public corruption, and the rise of science and the army expert as agents of the state. Information on engineering during the Civil War, the influence of women and family on the political and organizational philosophy of the Corps, and numerous historical illustrations add interesting highlights to the story. Much more than an institutional history, Structures in the Stream offers significant insights into American society, which has alternately supported the massive public works projects that are a legacy of our French heritage and opposed them based on the democratic, individualist tradition inherited from Britain. It will provide important reading for a wide audience in environmental andmilitary history, the history of science and technology, policy studies, and American cultural history.
About the author
Todd Shallat directs the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State University.
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