Interweaving social, political, environmental, economic, and
popular history, John Alexander Williams chronicles four and a half
centuries of the Appalachian past. Along the way, he explores
Appalachia's long-contested boundaries and the numerous, often
contradictory images that have shaped perceptions of the region as
both the essence of America and a place apart.
Williams begins his story in the colonial era and describes the
half-century of bloody warfare as migrants from Europe and their
American-born offspring fought and eventually displaced
Appalachia's Native American inhabitants. He depicts the evolution
of a backwoods farm-and-forest society, its divided and unhappy
fate during the Civil War, and the emergence of a new industrial
order as railroads, towns, and extractive industries penetrated
deeper and deeper into the mountains. Finally, he considers
Appalachia's fate in the twentieth century, when it became the
first American region to suffer widespread deindustrialization, and
examines the partial renewal created by federal intervention and a
small but significant wave of in-migration.
Throughout the book, a wide range of Appalachian voices enlivens
the analysis and reminds us of the importance of storytelling in
the ways the people of Appalachia define themselves and their
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