All Over the Map
Rethinking American Regions
Even as Americans keep moving "all over the map" in the late twentieth century, they cherish memories of the places they come from. But where do these places—these regions—come from? What makes them so real? In this groundbreaking book a distinguished group of historians explores the concept of region in America, traces changes the idea has undergone in our national experience, and examines its meaning for Americans today.
Far from diminishing in importance, the authors conclude, regional differences continue to play a significant role in Americans' self-image. Regional identity, in fact, has always been fed by the very forces that many people think threaten its existence today: a central government, an aggressive economy, and connections with places beyond regional boundaries. Calling into question widely held notions about how Americans came to differ from one another and explaining why those differences continue to flourish, this iconoclastic study—by scholars with differing regional ties—will refresh and redirect the centuries-old discussion over Americans' conceptions of themselves.
About the Authors
Edward L. Ayers is Hugh P. Kelly Professor in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. Patricia Nelson Limerick is professor of history at the University of Colorado. Stephen Nissenbaum is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts. Peter S. Onuf is Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia.
The book is not meant to offer a comprehensive look at the nation's regional characteristics; most valuable is what each scholar contributes to notions of place, identity, and memory... Most important, the authors seek to overturn the popular misconception that each locale was, at one time, at its most pristine and authentic moment, while modern life has been threatening this historical distinctiveness ever since.
The four brilliant essays here, in a little more than a hundred pages, will challenge any reader's regional stereotypes... this book is a learning experience for scholars as well as for a wider audience.
Due to the nature of their assignment, historians who deliver lectures in a distinguished series are often reacquired either to survey old ground that has been covered more thoroughly in larger monographs or venture into new territory that cannot be examined fully in the time available. Even so, such lectures can be framed in creative ways that enrich understanding, stimulate fresh thought, and point the way to fertile ground for additional research on important issues. [This] well-written [volume] of lectures [meets] those standards. [It represents its] genre at its best and [is a] welcome [addition] to the literature on American regions.
All Over the Map makes a distinctive and valuable contribution, and it does so at a critical moment in our thinking about regionalism. The essays have many virtues—they are exceedingly thoughtful and they are well informed. With writing that is wonderfully clear, the book is a delightful and important work for scholars as well as a wider audience. I would like to see it in the book shop at every National Park Service site across the U.S.A.
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