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January 31, 1997
4 tables, 1 figure, 1 map
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v2.1 Reference

Appalachia's Path to Dependency

Rethinking a Region's Economic History, 1730-1940

In Appalachia's Path to Dependency, Paul Salstrom examines the evolution of economic life over time in southern Appalachia. Moving away from the colonial model to an analysis based on dependency, he exposes the complex web of factors—regulation of credit, industrialization, population growth, cultural values, federal intervention—that has worked against the region.

Salstrom argues that economic adversity has resulted from three types of disadvantages: natural, market, and political. The overall context in which Appalachia's economic life unfolded was one of expanding United States markets and, after the Civil War, of expanding capitalist relations.

Covering Appalachia's economic history from early white settlement to the end of the New Deal, this work is not simply an economic interpretation but draws as well on other areas of history. Whereas other interpretations of Appalachia's economy have tended to seek social or psychological explanations for its dependency, this important work compels us to look directly at the region's economic history. This regional perspective offers a clear-eyed view of Appalachia's path in the future.

About the Author

Paul Salstrom is associate professor of history at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and author of From Pioneering to Persevering: Family Farming in Indiana to 1880.


"An imaginative and provocative piece that will inform further work for many years, for it preserves a point of view that deserves such an impressive presentation."—American Studies

"A strong contribution to the economic history of Appalachia and the study of Appalachian culture."—Journal of Appalachian Studies

"Offers a comprehensive explanation for the persistence of economic dependency in southern Appalachia. . . . A provocative book that should stimulate further debate."—American Historical Review

"A powerful and reasoned argument for a new synthesis on the emergence of Appalachian dependency. . . . Summarizes much of the 'new rural history' and applies it to our understanding of Appalachian history. . . . Takes our understanding of the historical trends which shaped Appalachian dependency to a new level."—Ronald D Eller, author of Uneven Ground

"Steeped in the comparative history of economic development, Paul Salstrom . . . makes an astute, original and deeply researched analysis of the region's history, merging in a nondoctrinaire way the insights of both new-Marxists and neo-classicists. Anyone interested in how a once independent people became dependents on a federal largesse, and destructive to themselves as well as to the land, will find this study richly illuminating"—Donald Worster, Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas

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