What We Are Reading Today: Alexander von Humboldt and the United States

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Updated 17 April 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Alexander von Humboldt and the United States

Author: Eleanor Jones Harvey

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was one of the most influential scientists and thinkers of his age. 

A Prussian-born geographer, naturalist, explorer, and illustrator, he was a prolific writer whose books graced the shelves of American artists, scientists, philosophers, and politicians. Humboldt visited the US for six weeks in 1804, engaging in a lively exchange of ideas with such figures as Thomas Jefferson and the painter Charles Willson Peale. It was perhaps the most consequential visit by a European traveler in the young nation’s history, one that helped to shape an emerging American identity grounded in the natural world.

In this beautifully illustrated book, Eleanor Jones Harvey examines how Humboldt left a lasting impression on American visual arts, sciences, literature, and politics. She shows how he inspired a network of like-minded individuals who would go on to embrace the spirit of exploration, decry slavery, advocate for the welfare of native Americans, and extol America’s wilderness as a signature component of the nation’s sense of self. 

Harvey traces how Humboldt’s ideas influenced the transcendentalists and the landscape painters of the Hudson River School, and laid the foundations for the Smithsonian Institution, the Sierra Club, and the National Park Service.

Alexander von Humboldt and the United States looks at paintings, sculptures, maps, and artifacts, and features works by leading American artists such as Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Frederic Church, and Samuel F. B. Morse.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Urban Economics and Fiscal Policy by Holfer Sieg

Updated 06 August 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Urban Economics and Fiscal Policy by Holfer Sieg

With more than half of today’s global GDP being produced by approximately 400 metropolitan centers, learning about the economics of cities is vital to understanding economic prosperity. 

This textbook introduces graduate and upper-division undergraduate students to the field of urban economics and fiscal policy, relying on a modern approach that integrates theoretical and empirical analysis. Based on material that Holger Sieg has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Urban Economics and Fiscal Policy brings the most recent insights from the field into the classroom.

Divided into short chapters, the book explores fiscal policies that directly shape economic issues in cities, such as city taxes, the provision of quality education, access to affordable housing, and protection from crime and natural hazards. 

For each issue, Sieg offers questions, facts, and background; illuminates how economic theory helps students engage with topics; and presents empirical data that shows how economic ideas play out in daily life. 

Throughout, the book pushes readers to think critically and immediately put what they are learning to use by applying cutting-edge theory to data.