Portrait of Dr John Wills

Dr John Wills

Reader in American History and Culture
Convenor of Research Seminar Series


Dr John Wills is a scholar in American cultural and environmental issues. He studied at Warwick University (BA History and Politics) and Bristol University (MA Contemporary History and PhD in American Environmental History), before teaching in the Sociology department at the University of Essex. In September 2005, he took up a post at the University of Kent, teaching in the School of History and the Centre for American Studies.
His research and teaching interests bridge several disciplines, most notably history, sociology, cultural studies and game studies. 

Research interests

John works on environmental, cultural and digital topics, including 1950's American society, nuclear landscapes, amusements and theme parks, environmental protest, video games, California and Hollywood.

Since 2009, John has served as editor of the European Journal of American Culture (Intellect), an interdisciplinary cultural studies journal. He is the author of six books, including Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon (2006), US Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday (2012), Disney Culture (2017), and most recently, Gamer Nation: Video Games and American Culture (2019) with Johns Hopkins University Press.

John has exhibited his work on video games at the British Academy Summer Showcase in London (June 2018), spoken about dystopian gaming at the Being Human Festival (2019), as well as provided film essays for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board. He is currently writing a monograph on Doom Town, an experimental town at Nevada Test Site in the 1950s, and with Esther Wright, editing a book on Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption game series.

Active in the digital community, John is a member of the Historical Game Studies Network, the Videogame Heritage Society, and the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries (the latter based here at Kent). 


John teaches on American cultural and environmental history. 


John supervises postgraduate research on US environmentalism, parks and recreation, nuclear issues, Disney, and video games. 



  • Wills, J. (2019). Exploding the 1950s Consumer Dream: Mannequins and Mushroom Clouds at Doom Town, Nevada Test Site. Pacific Historical Review [Online] 88:410-438. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1525/phr.2019.88.3.410.
    While the mushroom cloud rising above the Nevada desert is an iconic and familiar image, what went on beneath the cloud is hazier and less well understood. Surface level nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s entailed extensive scientific, military and social experiments. This article focuses on two projects overseen by the Federal Civil Defence Administration (FCDA), Doom Town I and II, and their ties with 1950s cultural values and the consumer landscape. It situates the two mock American townscapes as part of the cultural battlefield of the Cold War, and explores how they served as powerful but also deeply flawed symbols of American capitalism and a new suburban way of life.
  • Wills, J. (2008). "Pixel Cowboys and Silicon Goldmines: Videogames of the American West". Pacific Historical Review [Online] 77:273-303. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/phr.2008.77.2.273.
    This article explores representations of the American West in computer and videogames from the late 1970s through 2006. The article reveals how several titles, including the early Boot Hill (1977), invoked classic nineteenth-century western motifs, employing the six-shooter, wagon train, and iron horse to sell late twentieth-century entertainment technology to a global audience. Such games allowed players, typically adolescent males, to recreate a version of history and to participate actively in the more violent aspects of the “Wild West.” The arcade Western emerged as a subgenre within computer entertainment, offering a distinctive, interactive amalgam of popular frontier-based fictions, including the nineteenth-century dime novel, Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, and the modern Hollywood western. Computer technology thus served established myths surrounding the “Wild West,” even as New Western History was challenging their authenticity
  • Wills, J. (2006). Brighty, donkeys and conservation in the Grand Canyon. Endeavour [Online] 30:113-117. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.endeavour.2006.07.002.
    The Grand Canyon is a vast place. It is almost incomprehensible in size. And yet it can also seem strangely crowded. Millions of tourists flock to the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona every year. In 1999, almost 5 million people visited, the highest figure in Canyon history. And each one of them expected to see a wild, free and untrammelled landscape. Despite the obvious natural resources, this expectation has proved anything but easy to satisfy. The US National Park Service (NPS), responsible for the management of most large North American parks (along with several historic sites and museums), has struggled to make or keep the canyon ‘grand’. Park rangers have grappled with a multitude of issues during the past century, including automobile congestion, drying of the Colorado River and uranium mining inside the park. Conservation has posed a unique set of challenges. On a fundamental level, ‘restoring’ the Grand Canyon to its ‘original’ wilderness setting has proved intensely problematic. In the field of wildlife management, restoring the Canyon to its pre-Columbian splendour has entailed some tough decisions – none more so than a 1976 plan to eliminate a sizeable population of feral burros (wild donkeys) roaming the preserve, animals classified as exotics by the NPS.
  • Wills, J. (2006). Celluloid Chain Reactions: The China Syndrome and Three Mile Island. European Journal of American Culture [Online] 25:109-122. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ejac.25.2.109/1.
    In March 1979, Americans watched two nuclear incidents unfold. On television, news reporters covered a real-life partial meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At the movie-theater, a fictional atomic plant in California nearly met disaster in The China Syndrome directed by James Bridges. This article explores how the nuclear industry, environmental protesters and the American public responded to the two dramas. It discusses the extent to which a Hollywood thriller provided a window on events at Three Mile Island. It highlights the role of fiction in common comprehensions of the nuclear age and in the formation of nationwide nuclear anxieties.
  • Wills, J. (2003). Abalone, Rattlesnakes and Kilowatt Monsters: Nature and the Atom at Diablo Canyon, California. Cultural Geographies 10:149-175.
  • Wills, J. (2003). ’On Burro’d Time’: Burros of the Grand Canyon and the Pursuit of Undying Wilderness. Journal of Arizona History 44:1-24.
    Ever since its establishment as a national monument in 1908, the Grand Canyon has served as Arizona's foremost natural wonder and a premier icon of American wilderness. To maintain the region's wild allure- or, in the words of ex-forest firefighter Stephen Pyne, to "keep the Canyon Grand"- park rangers have grappled with a multitude of issues from automobile congestion to uranium mining. In the field of wildlife management, restoring the Canyon to its per-Columbian splendor has entailed tough decisions - none more so than in 1976 plan to eliminate a sizable population of feral burros roaming the preserve.
  • Wills, J. (2002). "Digital Dinosaurs and Artificial Life: Exploring the Culture of Nature in Computer and Videogames". Cultural Values 6:395-418.
  • Wills, J. (2001). ’Welcome to the Atomic Park’: American Nuclear Landscapes and the ’Unnaturally Natural’. Environment and History [Online] 7:449-472. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3197/096734001129342559.
  • Wills, J. (2000). Talking Atoms: Anti-Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon, California. Oral History 28.
    In the 1950s and 1960s, a pro-nuclear narrative, largely established by government officials, dominated discourse on the nuclear age. Anti-nuclear protestors in the 1970s faced the challenge of countering years of atomic rhetoric. Drawing on substantial oral interviews conducted in the late 1990s, this article considers the language of hope and fear expressed by opponents of nuclear energy in California. In particular, it explores the relationship that evolved between activists, their dialogue of 'anti-nukespeak', and their place of protest, Diablo Canyon. 'Talking Atoms' notes the high value protestors afforded to free discussion and expression, and suggest oral history as an appropriate medium for understanding a loquacious popular movement.


  • Wills, J. (2019). Gamer Nation: Video Games and American Culture. [Online]. Johns Hopkins University Press. Available at: https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/gamer-nation.
    In 1975, design engineer Dave Nutting completed work on a new arcade machine. A version of Taito's Western Gun, a recent Japanese arcade machine, Nutting's Gun Fight depicted a classic showdown between gunfighters. Rich in Western folklore, the game seemed perfect for the American market; players easily adapted to the new technology, becoming pistol-wielding pixel cowboys. One of the first successful early arcade titles, Gun Fight helped introduce an entire nation to video-gaming and sold more than 8,000 units.

    In Gamer Nation, John Wills examines how video games co-opt national landscapes, livelihoods, and legends. Arguing that video games toy with Americans' mass cultural and historical understanding, Wills show how games reprogram the American experience as a simulated reality. Blockbuster games such as Civilization, Call of Duty, and Red Dead Redemption repackage the past, refashioning history into novel and immersive digital states of America. Controversial titles such as Custer's Revenge and 08.46 recode past tragedies. Meanwhile, online worlds such as Second Life cater to a desire to inhabit alternate versions of America, while Paperboy and The Sims transform the mundane tasks of everyday suburbia into fun and addictive challenges.

    Working with a range of popular and influential games, from Pong, Civilization, and The Oregon Trail to Grand Theft Auto, Silent Hill, and Fortnite, Wills critically explores these gamic depictions of America. Touching on organized crime, nuclear fallout, environmental degradation, and the War on Terror, Wills uncovers a world where players casually massacre Native Americans and Cold War soldiers alike, a world where neo-colonialism, naive patriotism, disassociated violence, and racial conflict abound, and a world where the boundaries of fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred. Ultimately, Gamer Nation reveals not only how video games are a key aspect of contemporary American culture, but also how games affect how people relate to America itself.
  • Wills, J. (2017). Disney Culture. [Online]. Rutgers University Press. Available at: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/disney-culture/9780813583327.
    Over the past century, Disney has grown from a small American animation studio into a multipronged global media giant. Today, the company’s annual revenue exceeds the GDP of over 100 countries, and its portfolio has grown to include Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ABC, and ESPN. With a company so diversified, is it still possible to identify a coherent Disney vision or message?

    Disney Culture proposes that there is still a unifying Disney ethos, one that can be traced back to the corporate philosophy that Walt Disney himself developed back in the 1920s. Yet, as cultural historian John Wills demonstrates, Disney’s values have also adapted to changing social climates. At the same time, the world of Disney has profoundly shaped how Americans view the world.

    Wills offers a nuanced take on the corporate ideologies running through animated and live-action Disney movies from Frozen to Fantasia, from Mary Poppins to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But Disney Culture encompasses much more than just movies as it explores the intersections between Disney’s business practices and its cultural mythmaking. Welcome to “the Disney Way.”
  • Wills, J. (2012). US Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Jones, K. and Wills, J. (2009). The American West: Competing Visions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Wills, J. (2006). Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press.
    Vehement, widespread opposition accompanied the rise of the U.S. nuclear industry during the 1960s and 1970s. In "Conservation Fallout", John Wills examines one of the most controversial atomic projects of the period: Pacific Gas and Electric Company's decision to build its premier nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon, a relatively unsettled, biologically rich, and especially scenic part of the central California coastline. Two competing visions of California emerged while the plant underwent construction. Environmentalists used Diablo as a symbol of impending ecological doomsday, while PG&E envisioned it as the model that would usher in a new age of energy production. The Sierra Club almost disbanded over whether to condone or protest the reactor project. Divisions also emerged in the local community as residents and politicians, enticed by the promise of cheap electricity and lucrative tax revenues, found themselves pitted against others who feared the dangers of radiation in their own backyards. The controversy intensified when a fault line was discovered within three miles of the plant. Grassroots groups The Mothers for Peace, a local women's group, and The Abalone Alliance, a statewide nonviolent direct-action organization, did their utmost to stop the plant from going on-line. In 1979, an Alliance rally in San Francisco attracted 25,000 people, while 40,000 others gathered in San Luis Obispo. During a two-week-long blockade of the Diablo plant in 1981, over 1,900 activists were jailed, the largest arrest in the history of American antinuclear protest. Despite its significance in the history of twentieth-century environmental issues and the continuing debate over the safety of nuclear power, the full story of Diablo Canyon has not been told until now. Wills bases his account on extensive interviews with the individuals involved, as well as on the archives of the Sierra Club, several protest organizations, public agencies, PG&E, and others. The result is an engaging, balanced examination of nuclear politics in California. By focusing on one of the last wild places in the state and its transformation into a major technological center, and on the evolution and strategies of the little-studied grassroots protest groups determined to protect California and resist the spread of nuclear technology, Wills has made a major contribution to our understanding of America's nuclear age.
  • Jones, K. and Wills, J. (2005). The Invention of the Park: From the Garden of Eden to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Cambridge: Polity.

Book section

  • Wills, J. (2015). Wagon Train to the Stars’: Star Trek, the Frontier and America. In: Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek The Original Cast Adventures. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield.
    When it premiered on NBC in September 1966, Star Trek was described by its creator, Gene Roddenberry, as "Wagon Train to the stars." Featuring a racially diverse cast, trips to exotic planets, and encounters with an array of alien beings who could be either friendly or hostile, the program opened up new vistas for television. Along with The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, Star Trek represented one of the small screen's rare ventures into science fiction during the 1960s. Although the original series was a modest success during its three-year run, its afterlife has been nothing less than a cultural phenomenon. To celebrate the show's debut fifty years later, it's time to reexamine one of the most influential programs in history. In Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek: The Original Cast Adventures, Douglas and Shea T. Brode present a collection of essays about the series and its various incarnations over the years. Contributors discuss not only the 1960s show but also its off-shoots, ranging from novels and graphic novels to toys and video games, as well as the films featuring Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew. Essays address the show's religious implications, romantic elements, and its role in the globalization of American culture. Other essays draw parallels between the series and the Vietnam War, compare Star Trek II to Milton's Paradise Lost, posit Roddenberry as an auteur, and consider William Shatner as a romantic object. With its far-reaching and provocative essays, this collection offers new insights into one of the most significant shows ever produced. Besides television and film studies, Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek-a companion volume to The Star Trek Universe-will be of interest to scholars of religion, history, gender studies, queer studies, and popular culture, not to mention the show's legions of fans.
  • Wills, J. (2015). Firefly and the Space Western: Frontier Fiction on Fast-Forward. In: Goodrum, M. and Smith, P. eds. Firefly Revisited: Essays on Joss Whedon’s Classic Series. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield. Available at: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442247437/Firefly-Revisited-Essays-on-Joss-Whedon’s-Classic-Series.
    A short lived series created by Joss Whedon, Firefly nonetheless developed such a loyal following that Whedon was compelled to write and direct a big screen sequel in 2005. The show continues to generate a life of its own in books and comic books. This collection of twelve essays focuses on a number of themes including colonialism, race, gender, and politics.
  • Wills, J. (2014). Nature writes the screenplays’: Felix Salten and Disney Nature in Bambi (1942), Perri (1957) and The Shaggy Dog (1959). In: Merlock Jackson, K. and West, M. I. eds. Walt Disney and His Narratives: From Reader to Storyteller. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co Inc.
  • Wills, J. (2010). ‘Welcome to the Atomic Park’: American Nuclear Landscapes and the ‘Unnaturally Natural’. In: Landscapes: Themes in Environmental History. White Horse Press.
    Landscapes is the second in our new series of environmental history readers, suitable for students and researchers. Comprising essays selected from our journals, Environment and History and Environmental Values, each inexpensive paperback volume addresses an important theme in environmental history, combining underlying theory and specific case-studies. Landscapes explores the conceptualisation of environments as landscape, philosophically and historically. Excursions in landscape aesthetics contextualise case studies of landscapes perceived, constructed and responded to, from the plantations of South Africa to the Australian outback, the medieval Ardennes to nuclear-age America. Literary and artistic versions of landscape are studied alongside those driven by policy and pragmatism, probing the intersections of the transcendent and the ideological.
  • Wills, J. (2008). America and the Environment. In: Halliwell, M. and Morley, C. eds. American Thought and Culture in the 21st Century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 195-210.

Conference or workshop item

  • Wills, J. (2017). ’You have died of dysentery’: Oregon Trail the video game and the Western Endeavor. In: British Association for American Studies Annual Conference.
  • Wills, J. (2014).“’Ronnie Raygun Targets Your Country for Destruction’: Playing Nuclear War.” In: Radical Readings/Radical Texts Symposium,.
  • Wills, J. (2013). “The Ghost Towns of Ground Zero: Commemorating the Atomic Frontier". In: Memory and Restitution Conference.
  • Wills, J. (2013).“Researching Rachel Carson.” In: Silent Spring: Chemical, Biological and Technological Visions of the Environment Workshop.
  • Wills, J. (2013).“Playing on the Frontier: Western Theme Parks and Videogames.” In: Frontiers Conference.
  • Wills, J. (2013). “‘Bam! Shot Me!’: Videogames of the American West". In: American Studies Seminar Series.
  • Wills, J. (2012).“Playing the Indian: The Arcade Western and New Frontier Avatars.” In: Native Studies Research Network Conference.
  • Wills, J. (2011).“Pixel Cowboys and Frontier Rides: The Fantastical American West.” In: Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy Conference.
  • Wills, J. (2011).“Film and Environment.” In: Engaging With Film: Perspectives on Cinematic Literacy Workshop.
  • Wills, J. (2011).“The Gun that Won the Culture West.” In: Guns and Identity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Conference.
  • Wills, J. (2010).“The Armageddon Experiment: Doom Town USA and the Nuking of Suburbia.” In: British Association for American Studies Conference.

Show / exhibition

  • Wills, J. (2018). How Has America Been Depicted in VideoGames? British Academy Summer Showcase Exhibit. [Exhibit]. Available at: https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/events/summershowcase/2018/playing-cowboys-criminals-videogame-depictions-frontier-urban-west.
    Exhibit at Summer Showcase 2018

Internet publication

  • Wills, J. (2019). Is Call of Duty Really Promoting Anti-Russian Propaganda? [Internet]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/is-call-of-duty-really-promoting-anti-russian-propaganda-126459.
    The Conversation news article
  • Wills, J. (2019). Cooking, Cleaning and Personal Hygiene: Why Video Games Make You Feel Right at Home [Internet]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/cooking-cleaning-and-personal-hygiene-why-video-games-make-you-feel-right-at-home-116912.
    The Conversation news article
  • Wills, J. (2018). Fallout 76: The Lingering Appeal of the Post-Apocalypse [Internet]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/fallout-76-the-lingering-appeal-of-the-post-apocalypse-107981.
    The Conversation News Article
  • Wills, J. (2018). Red Dead Redemption 2: Can a Video Game Be Too Realistic [Internet]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/red-dead-redemption-2-can-a-video-game-be-too-realistic-106404.
    The Conversation News Article
  • Wills, J. (2018). Far Cry 5: Cults, Radicalism, and Why This Video Game Speaks to Today’s Divided America [Internet]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/far-cry-5-cults-radicalism-and-why-this-video-game-speaks-to-todays-divided-america-95000.
    The Conversation News Article
  • Wills, J. (2017). Snow White at 80: Disney May Be Flawed, But We Are Still in Thrall to Its Cartoon Magic [Internet]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/snow-white-at-80-disney-may-be-flawed-but-we-are-still-in-thrall-to-its-cartoon-magic-88883.
    The Conversation News Article
  • Wills, J. (2017). Library of Congress Film Essay: The Terminator [Online]. Available at: https://www.loc.gov/programs/static/national-film-preservation-board/documents/terminator.pdf.
  • Wills, J. (2017). Library of Congress Film Essay: Planet of the Apes [Online]. Available at: https://www.loc.gov/programs/static/national-film-preservation-board/documents/planet_apes.pdf.
  • Wills, J. (2017). Library of Congress Film Essay: Bambi [Online]. Available at: https://www.loc.gov/programs/static/national-film-preservation-board/documents/bambi.pdf.
  • Wills, J. (2016). Deepwater Horizon Is Remarkably Fossil Fuel-Friendly for an Oil Rig Disaster Film [Online]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/deepwater-horizon-is-remarkably-fossil-fuel-friendly-for-an-oil-rig-disaster-film-66318.
  • Wills, J. (2016). Disney History: How Has the Corporation Shaped Our Perception of the Past? [Online]. Available at: http://www.historyextra.com/article/feature/disney-history-real-perception-past-pocahontas-lincoln-pearl-harbor-films.
    From Pocahontas to Pearl Harbour, over the course of its near-100 year history Disney has repackaged, or ‘Disneyfied’, a number of real historical people and events. Here, historian Dr John Wills explores how the corporation has turned history into popular entertainment...
  • Wills, J. (2013). Historian at the Movies: Saving Mr. Banks Reviewed [Online]. Available at: http://www.historyextra.com/feature/historian-movies-saving-mr-banks-reviewed.
    As part of our new series, Dr John Wills, a senior lecturer in American history at the University of Kent, reviews Saving Mr. Banks – a biographical drama about PL Travers, the Australian creator of children's literary classic Mary Poppins


  • Beesley, A. (2020). Reconciling Conflict over Urban Public Space: Perceptions of Park Space in Seattle (c. 1960 to Present).
    During the second half of the twentieth century, Seattle's urban form altered, much like many other major US cities. A variety of different land uses competed in the urban realm for space - commercial, transportation, leisure and recreational, to name a few. As the post-industrial city developed in Seattle, a re-examination of park spaces also occurred which often pitted competing visions of space against each other in the pursuit of establishing a place in which people could use, free from the confines of modern life. While often experimental in their form, these spaces continued a long tradition of park creation in the city of Seattle, that first took root in the early plans of the Olmsted Brothers at the start of the twentieth century. This thesis explores the new form that this 'park's culture' took between 1960 and the early part of the twenty first century and attempts to place the 'people' back into the conversation of park developments. Often, the perceptions of urban residents held considerable power and influence over the trajectory such spaces took on their journey from conception to fruition. By looking at three Seattle parks in particular, this thesis will contend that these particular parks represented a novel form of place-making in park spaces, and that the backdrop of a receptive public towards parks in Seattle allowed these places to become integral parts of the public realm in the city.
  • Blower, N. (2018). Outsiders in Red Rock Country: The Kaiparowits Project and the Reputation of American Environmentalism.
    This dissertation interrogates the ways in which a series of critical newspapers, federal agencies, and private industries sought to re-shape and negatively frame the public image of post-war conservation and environmental groups in Utah and the Intermountain West. It traces, through a series of environmental-energy conflicts located around southern Utah's Kaiparowits Plateau, how commentators employed attacks on public image to de-legitimise and contain what was seen as the escalating spread of a political and cultural force: environmentalism. Beginning in the early 1950s and proceeding through much of the United States' 'environmental decade,' I detail the mutating nature and variable efficacy of these attacks as environmentalists were alternately associated with Communism, Middle Eastern oil cartels, and the counterculture. Recognising environmental groups as co-producers in this shifting public image, I also account for their counter-attempts at defending their reputations using advertising, photography, and promotional materials.

    This project offers a revisionist approach to standard narratives of the ascendancy of environmental organisations. Historical accounts have typically focused on the increasing competency, professionalism, and popularity of these advocacy groups. However, few explorations have focused on the way public understandings of the movement were shaped by a range of hostile critics that constructed environmentalists in a series of decidedly pejorative frames. I argue that even as several environmental organisations achieved increased political access and potency in the years 1950-1980, their reputations in the same period experienced a comparable decline. This resultant divisive reputation in the Intermountain states would come to play a central factor in the movement's subsequent loss of political and cultural agency in the region in the 1980s.
  • Barker, S. (2014). Through Oregon on High: The Construction and Consumption of Nature on the Oregon Skyline Trail.
    This thesis explores recreational interaction with the natural landscape of the United States. Through analysis of the proposed Oregon Skyline Road, that was never constructed, and the Oregon Skyline Trail that was created in its place, I consider how nature was constructed as a space, packaged as a commodity and consumed by tourists. From understanding why the infrastructure was first proposed, this research will follow the Oregon Skyline from its proposal in 1919 through to its absorption into the Pacific Crest Trail in the late 1930s. This thesis argues that the Skyline Trail was a space that was constructed and sold as an idealised version of nature for Americans to consume, based upon pre-conceptions of the spectacular and monumental in nature. Despite the construction of a scenic and recreational ‘wonderland’, this works argues that Americans rejected the form of interaction offered by the Oregon Skyline as too arduous and failing to provide the comforts of modern living. This work builds upon previous scholarly research on the natural landscape as a constructed space and how nature is sold and consumed. Research for this thesis engages with the key individuals who were involved in the creation of the Oregon Skyline and includes United States Forest Service officials, recreational planners, landscape architects and people who experienced the trail. This thesis engages with a range of primary sources, correspondence, journals, newspapers, contemporary outdoors and hiking literature, and uses these to deconstruct the Skyline Trail and demonstrate that the landscape evolves according to shifting and sometimes contradictory human demands. Finally, this thesis argues that the constructed and demanding wilderness landscapes of the Skyline Trail alienated its target audience, and only decades later did a broader community desire such a form of nature interaction.
  • Blower, N. and Wills, J. (2012). "Communicating Wilderness : Solitude and Interdependence in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, 1960-1968".


  • Wills, J. (2017). Missile Command: Representations of the Cold War in Videogames. In: Historians Of The Twentieth Century US, Winter Symposium: War and Conflict in Twentieth Century US Society and Culture.
  • Wills, J. (2017). Doom Town I and II: Experiments in Cold War Suburbia. In: Cold War Geographies Symposium.
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