Never has there been a president less content to sit still behind a desk than Theodore Roosevelt. When we picture him, he's on horseback or standing at a cliff’s edge or dressed for safari. And Roosevelt was more than just an adventurer—he was also a naturalist and campaigner for conservation. His love of the outdoor world began at an early age and was driven by a need not to simply observe nature but to be actively involved in the outdoors—to be in the field. As Michael R. Canfield reveals in Theodore Roosevelt in the Field, throughout his life Roosevelt consistently took to the field as a naturalist, hunter, writer, soldier, and conservationist, and it is in the field where his passion for science and nature, his belief in the manly, “strenuous life,” and his drive for empire all came together.
Drawing extensively on Roosevelt’s field notebooks, diaries, and letters, Canfield takes readers into the field on adventures alongside him. From Roosevelt’s early childhood observations of ants to his notes on ornithology as a teenager, Canfield shows how Roosevelt’s quest for knowledge coincided with his interest in the outdoors. We later travel to the Badlands, after the deaths of Roosevelt’s wife and mother, to understand his embrace of the rugged freedom of the ranch lifestyle and the Western wilderness. Finally, Canfield takes us to Africa and South America as we consider Roosevelt’s travels and writings after his presidency. Throughout, we see how the seemingly contradictory aspects of Roosevelt’s biography as a hunter and a naturalist are actually complementary traits of a man eager to directly understand and experience the environment around him.
As our connection to the natural world seems to be more tenuous, Theodore Roosevelt in the Field offers the chance to reinvigorate our enjoyment of nature alongside one of history’s most bold and restlessly curious figures.
An illuminating biography of Alfonso X, the 13th-century philosopher-king whose affinity for Islamic culture left an indelible mark on Western civilization
“If I had been present at the Creation,” the thirteenth-century Spanish philosopher-king Alfonso X is said to have stated, “Many faults in the universe would have been avoided.” Known as El Sabio, “the Wise,” Alfonso was renowned by friends and enemies alike for his sparkling intellect and extraordinary cultural achievements. In The Wise King, celebrated historian Simon R. Doubleday traces the story of the king’s life and times, leading us deep into his emotional world and showing how his intense admiration for Spain’s rich Islamic culture paved the way for the European Renaissance.
In 1252, when Alfonso replaced his more militaristic father on the throne of Castile and León, the battle to reconquer Muslim territory on the Iberian Peninsula was raging fiercely. But even as he led his Christian soldiers onto the battlefield, Alfonso was seduced by the glories of Muslim Spain. His engagement with the Arabic-speaking culture of the South shaped his pursuit of astronomy, for which he was famed for centuries, and his profoundly humane vision of the world, which Dante, Petrarch, and later Italian humanists would inherit. A composer of lyric verses, and patron of works on board games, hunting, and the properties of stones, Alfonso is best known today for his Cantigas de Santa María (Songs of Holy Mary), which offer a remarkable window onto his world. His ongoing struggles as a king and as a man were distilled—in art, music, literature, and architecture—into something sublime that speaks to us powerfully across the centuries.
An intimate biography of the Spanish ruler in whom two cultures converged, The Wise King introduces readers to a Renaissance man before his time, whose creative energy in the face of personal turmoil and existential threats to his kingdom would transform the course of Western history.