While reporting on citizens fighting natural gas pipelines and transmission lines planned to cut right across their homes, Howard Mansfield saw the emotional toll of these projects. "They got under the skin," writes Mansfield. "This was about more than kilowatts, powerlines, and pipelines. Something in this upheaval felt familiar. I began to realize that I was witnessing an essential American experience: the world turned upside down. And it all turned on one word: property."
Praise for The Habit:
*Starred Review* The always eloquent Mansfield (Summer over Autumn, 2017) conducts an evocative foray into the history of American property rights in this slim but enormously prescient title. In a series of related essays, he takes readers from the arrival of the Europeans (who defined the Indians by what they didn't own ) to George Washington's land speculation career with the Adventurers for Draining the Dismal Swamp (a slave-labor-based company attempting to drain a Virginia swamp) to contemporary struggles defending private property rights against pipeline and transmission line developers. While he crafts strikingly evocative portraits of the people he profiles (his essay on farmer Romaine Tenney, who sacrificed everything to fight against an interstate barreling across his land, is simply unforgettable), it is the scalpel-like precision with which Mansfield homes in on the relationship between Americans and the land that proves most perceptive. He accepts all the complexities of his chosen subject yet is gifted with an unerring eye for the true heart of the matter. American property is always in motion, he writes, but it is also our anchor and our North Star. Who decides the best use of property? Who truly owns it? Powerful insights live on these pages, and Mansfield's observations matter now more than ever.
HOWARD MANSFIELD is the author of nine books about preservation, architecture, and history, most recently Summer over Autumn (Bauhan 2017). He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Historic Preservation, and Yankee. He and his wife, writer Sy Montgomery, live in a 130-year-old house in Hancock, New Hampshire.