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Henry David Thoreau: Philosopher and Writer on Nature

Henry David Thoreau's profound philosophical, naturalist, and social reform views altered the course of American history in indelible ways. His innovative ideas have survived the test of time and continue to inform us now, establishing him as a major force in shaping the fullness and variety of American culture.
Henry David Thoreau was a trailblazer in American literature and philosophy, and his writings, especially "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience," continue to have an impact today. His views on nature and individualism informed the distinctive cultural ethos of the United States and continue to influence thinkers around the globe. We explore Thoreau's life, philosophy, and lasting impact on American culture through the sharp investigative eye of ABC's 60 Minutes and the deep historical context supplied by BBC History.

Thoreau's Childhood and Formative Years
Thoreau, who was born in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817, received his education at Harvard University, where he was exposed to the works of ancient Greece and Rome as well as the transcendentalist ideals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Transcendentalism and Thoreau
Thoreau was a major player in the Transcendentalist movement, which promoted individualism and a rejection of society norms and expectations. His works, which reflect his philosophy, frequently describe his interactions with nature and his thoughts on the nature of humanity.

The Struggle for Independence: Walden
Thoreau's most famous work, "Walden," details his two years spent in a hut by Walden Pond, where he lived simply and in harmony with nature to prove that one may be happy with few worldly belongings and a focus on spirituality. The work has been hailed as a classic of American literature for its insightful contemplation and vivid descriptions of the natural world.

Causes and Effects of Civil Disobedience
In his essay "Civil Disobedience," inspired in part by his refusal to pay a poll tax to fund the Mexican-American War and slavery, Henry David Thoreau argues that it is everyone's moral duty to stand up against oppressive legislation. Famous people including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. drew inspiration from this book in their battle against inequality.

The Lasting Influence of Thoreau
American ideals of nature and individual liberty owe much to Thoreau, whose writings have helped make the country what it is today. The environmental movement and the fight for civil rights are only two examples of the many areas that have been influenced by his ideas. The ideas of simplicity, self-sufficiency, and individual liberty that he promoted have come to define what it means to be an American.

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