John Hanson Mitchell
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Author John Hanson Mitchell's subject matter ranges from natural and human history, to travel, memoir, biography, and gardening. No matter what the subject, he has become best known for his incisive characterizations, his evocations of time and place, and his unique lyrical style.

The Scratch Flat Chronicles
"Scratch Flat is and was the world"
-New York Times Book Review

Tresspassing Living at the End of Time Ceremonial Time

Mitchell is the "discoverer", as he says, of a country within a country, a single square mile of land in eastern Massachusetts that was known as Scratch Flat in the nineteenth century. Starting with the now classic cult account Ceremonial Time (1984), Mitchell has written five books which use the same tract of land in one way or another to address the larger issue of what it means to be living on earth in our time. 

This singular patch of land, with its deep historical shadows, its farms, and its resident wildlife has been used for twenty years as the metaphorical hunting grounds for Mitchell's explorations. Onto the anomalous, changing landscape of Scratch Flat,  Mitchell has thrown virtually all his creative efforts to explore the themes which have obsessed him all his life - time, place, and the endurance of the natural world.  He is, in the style of his hero and mentor, Henry Thoreau, a traveler in his own land; he never gets far beyond his square mile, and yet, according to the New York Time's Book Review, his work has provided  a "comprehensive view of America, past, present - and future".

The Last of the Bird People

"This book is pure gold for both old China hands and readers who just want a good adventure in a bye-gone world. James Archibald Mitchell's fresh and lively observations of his travels in warlord China, 1915-18, are witness to a China closer to the middle ages than the industrial era."
-Gary Moore, playwright and author of Burning in China


Newest Work:

Travels in a Vanishing Empire: The Journals of
James Archibald Mitchell

It was a tumultuous period of Chinese history. In 1912, the 250 year-old Qing dynasty had been overthrown and powerful generals and political leaders were vying for control. Warlords and rebel armies were ranging the countryside; there was no effective central government, and the powerful foreign businessmen and missionaries were walled in well-defended compounds.

In 1915, in the midst of this chaos, a 24 year old college graduate named James A. Mitchell, landed in Shanghai to teach English at St John's College, so-called Harvard of the East. Mitchell was an avid diarist, and also a skilled photographer and observer of local customs, and whenever he had time off he set out to explore the country, the presence of warring armies and travel difficulties notwithstanding. Arch, as he was known, was brought up in Centreville, Maryland, the son of a popular Episcopalian minster, and was educated at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He was essentially a country boy, a dyed-in-the wool American with no international experience, and the storied Orient was both an inspiration and a shock to him. But as he makes clear in an early journal, he intention with the journals was to record what he sees with an objective, eye --- not an easy task for one so deeply schooled in Christianized Western culture. What emerges over the course of the three years in these journals, is an almost anthropological account of China during the Warlord Period in both words and photographs, a record of peasant life, boat families, climbing expeditions, and above all, exquisite images of the Chinese landscape of the period.