The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia

 

Richard Sisson, Christian Zacher and Andrew Cayton, editors

Indiana University Press; $75

What comes to mind when you hear “the Midwest”? This imposing yet accessible survey explicates the common images, and then some. The authors of essays gathered around landscape and people, society and culture, community and social life, economy and technology, and public life succeed in both informing and sparking a desire to commence a discussion with the next person who walks through the door.

Beginning with a treatise on the significance of settling the Midwest as being nothing short of revolutionary on multiple levels, and concluding with an insightful overview of military affairs, territorial jurisdiction is what takes center stage. This heartland of woodlands and plains has never been static since being peopled some 12,000 years ago. Adaptation and development have been continuous, yet 17th-19th century events caused radical and dramatic changes that evolved into what Hoosier pundit Meredith Nicholson called “a common law of dispersion” propelled by a drive to find less populated places to re-make into our own images and ideals.

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