Boston as we know it would have never developed if it weren't for the cows.

Michael Rawson, an assistant professor of history at City University of New York's Brooklyn College, spoke at Bowdoin on Wednesday night about his recent book, "Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston." The lecture took place in Main Lounge in Moulton Union.

Rawson is an environmental historian who focuses on the urban environment.

"An environmental historian is someone who brings human history and natural history together," said Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies Matthew Klingle, who required members of his "The City as American History" class to attend the lecture.

Klingle added that environmental historians are "interested in how human beings create environments that enfold them, and how those environments shape them in turn."

Rawson's is the first major environmental history book about Boston which delves into and explores many untouched issues. "Eden on the Charles" covers the development of Boston Common, Boston Harbor, the idea of the romantic suburb and Boston's first water system.

The development of Boston Common was the main focus of the lecture. Rawson's book argues that the cows that once roamed the Common played a crucial role in the formation of the modern Boston Common.

Rawson looked at the relationship between Bostonians and the transformation of the Common during the 19th to 20th centuries, a time during which Boston transformed from a rural area to one of the first urbanized cities in America. He noted in his lecture that members of the upper class petitioned for the removal of the cows because "women and children [were] afraid of the cows and the cows [cause] too much filth."

"The most interesting part of the lecture was seeing how the Common started off as a rural area, but then became more urbanized due to the relationship between humans and the environment," said Jordan Goldberg '14.

The second half of Rawson's lecture focused on the development of Boston Harbor. Rawson discussed how "an incorrect scientific theory" defined the shape of the harbor.

Rawson covered several other aspects of Boston's environmental history and how these changes have affected the city's inhabitants.

"What was interesting about the lecture was Rawson's multipronged view," said Sarah Johnson '13. "He spoke about the land, water and economic perspectives as well as the cultural shifts."

After graduating from Tufts, Rawson grew interested in environmental history by helping found a non-profit preservation group outside of Boston. He went on to receive his doctorate in environmental history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It took Rawson 10 years, on and off, to complete "Eden on the Charles." His interest in writing the book is academic as well as personal.

"I wanted to make a contribution to a growing and exciting field," said Rawson. "I also had a particular interest in Boston because I am originally from Boston. It was a wonderful opportunity to write about a place that is very close to my heart."

Rawson conducted much of his research in archives in the Boston area, the Boston Public Library and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

"What is so great about doing research in Boston is that you can actually visit some places that you are writing about along the way," Rawson said.

He added that he was "surprised by the number of overlooked pieces of the past" that he found during his research and incorporated into his book.

"I found it interesting how Rawson described how we have become separate from nature," said Goldberg.

Rawson's book explores how the making of a city is a complex environmental process, how Bostonians directly shaped Boston and how Boston set the standards toward which other American cities would thrive.