The historian William Cronon has been in the news recently in the US because of assaults on his civil liberties and academic freedom by the Wisconsin Republican Party.
This story is likely to be of interest to Green Left Weekly readers because of the collision between university research and powerful corporate interests. However, Cronon's work as an environmental historian since the 1970s means that he deserves to be read by all those who take an interest in environmental issues and ecosocialist politics. In books such as Changes in the Land, Nature's Metropolis and articles such as “The Trouble with Wilderness” he has challenged the common sense of the environmental movement.
Cronon's recent battle with the Republicans began when he noticed that legislation was being introduced to roll back environmental protection, ironically introduced by Republicans at the start of the 20th century. He posted on the Scholar as Citizen blog an entry titled: “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here).” He noted that the anti-environmental legislation had been manufactured not by state Republicans but by a secretive body funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Wisconsin Republicans immediately went on the counterattack, demanding that the university hand over Cronon's private emails. In the state that sent the redbaiting Eugene McCarthy to the Senate and where a battle against trade union rights has raged over the past months, there is a long tradition of attacks not only on the left but also on academics and others who challenge authority.