William Cronon is an environmental historian and educator whose influ- ential texts have broken new ground in revealing how humans have altered the natural world. His essay “‘Only Connect...’: The Goals of a Liberal Education,”offers a powerful and moving case for the work we are devoted to here at Amherst.“Liberal education,” he writes,“nurtures human freedom in the service of human community, which is to say that in the end it celebrates love.”
Yet, as Cronon explains, the freedom and growth nurtured through liberal education is not without caveats: “In the act of making us free, it also binds us to the communities that gave us our freedom in the first place; it makes us responsible to those communities in ways that limit our freedom.” This poetic and complex perspective is a mirror of his own influential and vivid articulations of human interactions with the natural world.
Cronon is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. In addition to editing many volumes, he has authored the influential Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England and Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, which won multiple awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Prior to his tenure at UW—Madison, Cronon served on the faculty of the Yale University Department of History for more than a decade. He has been a Rhodes Scholar, Danforth Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow and MacArthur Fellow,and has been elected into several prestigious organizations,including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received his B.A. from UW—Madison, and master of arts, master of philosophy and doctoral degrees from Yale. He also holds a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Oxford.