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Frontier Illinois (History of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier) Hardcover – December 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: History of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253334233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253334237
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,479,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A comprehensive, readable history of this distinctive prairie state before the Civil War. Davis (History/Illinois Coll.; Frontier America, 18001840, not reviewed) takes us from the time when what is now the state of Illinois was nothing but uninhabited land to the year in which its previously defeated senatorial candidate, Abraham Lincoln, became president of the US. In between, Illinois passed from native through French and briefly British, finally to American hands and went from a frontier wilderness to a prosperous urban society. Davis analyzes this complex transformation in consistently lively prose, scanting neither the main characters nor the more impersonal forces that brought this change about. Native Americans are front and center through much of the story. So, too, are the diverse populations of European settlersFrench and post-Revolution Americans uppermostand African-Americans, both slave and free. What helped make this most south-reaching midwestern state distinctive was its dual in-migration of southerners moving north, often with their slaves, and easterners moving west with their free-soil culture. Out of the original territories of the Old Northwest, established by the great Ordinance of 1787, Illinois became a state in 1818, after political shenanigans that won it statehood without the minimum number of inhabitants required by law and with the questionable addition, from the Wisconsin Territory, of thousands of square miles that included the land on which Chicago, the Midwest's greatest city, rose. Throughout all of these developments, and especially the gradual erosion of slavery, this ``far distant country'' remained comparatively free of violence and attached to communal norms. Davis ends his tale when Illinois, no longer a frontier land, had become the most highly urbanized of any state west of the Appalachians on the eve of the Civil War. This deft synthesis of existing knowledge is likely to become the standard modern history of Illinois. (13 b&w photos, 5 maps, not seen.) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

"A comprehensive, readable history of this distinctive prairie state before the Civil War...This deft synthesis of existing knowledge is likely to become the standard modern history of Illinois."--Kirkus Reviews "Davis provides an incisive portrait of prairie society... A fresh and sophisticated survey of early Illinois."--Choice "Extensively researched, and with excellent endnotes, Frontier Illinois is an important study. A lively account of how the frontier gave shape to the later state, it questions traditional stereotypes of the West and offers a new outlook as to the real nature of the Illinois frontier." --Journal of the Early Republic

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jon P. Miller on May 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Read this book when it was first released and have not been able to keep it out of my mind ever since, so I just finished reading it again. As a student of history, my greatest interest is in how the people lived and felt who shaped the events we call history. James F. Davis helped me to visualize how people lived and how they felt about the events they affected and that effected them. Especially impressive is his understanding of the mindsets of Yankees and Southerners and how this evolved as the State matured and grew. I give "Frontier Illinois" my highest unqualified recommendation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished James Davis's book of frontier history and felt compelled to not only add my kudos to the growing body of discerning Amazon readers but also to set the record straight. The reader from Springfield, Illinois is clearly mistaken when he accuses Dr. Davis of "poor organization and editing." As pointed out in other reviews, the two figures are not inconsistent; one is national while the other is for Illinois. Davis's editing skills are superlative; that is abundantly apparent when one reads the finely-tuned notes to his DREAMS TO DUST: A DIARY OF THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH 1849-1850 (1989, University of Nebraska Press). Legitimate criticisms are always valid. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the reader from Springfield are neither.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Frontier Illinois is a welcome addition to anyone's regional history collection. Dr. Davis has done an admirable job of compiling statistics, anecdotes and insight into a quite readable and understandable work. For those who might consider acquainting themselves with Illinois' place in the development of the frontier, this fits the bill. However, unlike the reader from Springfield, I found no discrepancy between the numbers in dispute on pages 286-287. Clearly, the first listing of mortality(227 deaths) was in reference to the total number for the country from June 1st, 1849 to June 1st of 1850. The second number was listed as `seven murders in Illinois between June 1, 1849 and June 1, 1850'. Any error here is on the part of the reviewer from Springfield.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Historian James E. Davis has once again contributed a scholarly, yet readable book on midwestern history. The Illinois frontier has been a favorite topic of researchers for decades, but few before Professor Davis have managed to provide such a succinct, fascinating account. After reading the comments from the Springfield, Illinois, reviewer, however, I went back to my copy of the book and I would like to take issue with the rather nasty sniping and at the same time help with his/her counting. Dr. Davis most certainly does NOT get his figures mixed up. The last part of the paragraph on page 287-88 states: "'Mortality Statistics of the Seventh Census of the UNITED STATES [emphasis mine], 1850,' classified deaths occurring from June 1, 1849, to June 1, 1850. The census revealed 227 murders during these twelve months. Illinois' population was 851,470, about 3.66 percent of the national total. Census figures revealed seven murders IN ILLINOIS [emphasis mine] between June 1, 1849 and June 1, 1850, or about 3.08 percent of the nation's murders." As my 12-year-old son pointed out, the first figure is national, while the second is for Illinois. I would suggest that if the Springfield reviewer has a personal vendetta with Dr. Davis, then he/she should at least come up with valid, scholarly criticisms, rather than rely on cheap theatrics in an anonymous review
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul E. Stroble on April 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An excellent and thorough study of early Illinois. Dr. Davis uses a broad range of sources to provide a needed account of the state's frontier period.
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By S. Haas on January 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Brimming with information? Yes, and at times the reading is bogged down with facts and figures. Still, it provides a comprehensive overview of frontier Illinois for the lay historian. I'd recommend it as a reference for those who need reminding, from time to time, of the significance of settlement in the Midwest. At the least, it was fascinating to read of the French period in the 1600s and 1700s, the Native American plight, and the differing perspectives of slavery, especially among British, French, Spanish and American settlers.
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